An anonymous eating disorder survivor writes an open letter to all pro-ana and pro-mia websites. These websites are little-known dark areas of the Internet that prey on the insecurities and vulnerability of people with, or the propensity to develop, eating disorders. These websites give tips for and encourage the sustenance of eating disorders, implying that they are not only harmless but also show strength. Our anonymous writer expresses her anger, disdain and upset, calling, controversially, for them to be banned.
Warning: This article covers the subjects of anorexia and bulimia.
To all pro-ana/mia websites,
I am writing to you as a former sufferer of anorexia and bulimia nervosa; physical and mental illnesses that are the sole topics of your web pages and blogs. I say former, but that was no thanks at all to your websites. For years, I starved myself and made myself vomit repetitively until the problem was so severe that I was nearly hospitalised; this problem started when, as an innocent fourteen-year-old, I stumbled onto a pro-mia website.
It soon became my bible for a thin way of life; the, supposedly trustworthy advice, is written in a scarily ordered and convincing fashion. Any healthy person would at once have sensed that there is something wrong with articles such as “5 foods to eat which can easily be vomited up” and “How to live on 500 calories a day”. But these subjects usually concern people who are not mentally healthy. In my middle and late teens I suffered terribly from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression, as I am sure many others do. The common link between those of us who suffer from anorexia and bulimia is that our state of mind means we are easily brainwashed into believing that this is a healthy lifestyle; that such illnesses show self-restraint rather than self-harm.
Well, let me make one thing clear. Bulimia and anorexia are neither lifestyles, nor are they healthy in any way shape or form; you glorify actions that could kill someone. Your websites are purely playing on and increasing people’s insecurities and tricking them into believing that anorexia/bulimia are normal. This needs to stop. Not only are you tricking yourselves, you are projecting your disillusioned views onto other vulnerable people; views that not only brainwash but physically harm them.
Any blogs/websites/forums of such a harmful nature deserve no place on the Internet. So, do us all a favour; take any pages that glorify anorexia or bulimia and offer tips about how to take part in such a lifestyle off the web. You may still be delusional enough to believe that this is a healthy choice, but please give other people a chance to realise how much they are hurting themselves and to seek the help and treatment they need. You may see yourselves as ambassadors of a chosen lifestyle, but what you do is not healthy, neither is it normal, and glorifying deadly mental illnesses in such a way that it creates a community of followers is despicable and creates an unknown amount of harm, to whomever is unfortunate enough to stumble across them.
On these websites, anorexic or bulimic individuals whose maxim is “thinspiration” openly spill their diet and exercise secrets, no matter how extreme and unhealthy. However, just because an online community is gaining momentum does not mean that their focus is right. In essence, they motivate one another to maintain their eating disorders and are virtually assisting each other in a prolonged suicide. This information is accessible to all web-users, and given that many children have access to the Internet in the current day and age, these sites could go as far as corrupting pre-pubescents. The controversial information is right at their fingertips. If these websites are not censored they will continue to corrupt youth and increase eating disorders among younger generations.
Although some may argue that websites that support and endorse bulimia and anorexia are exercising their right to the expression of free speech, the UN states that ‘[The right to freedom of expression may] be subject to certain restrictions […] for the protection […] of public order or of public health or morals.’ Pro-ana/mia websites portray anorexia and bulimia in a positive light and increase the likelihood of people who view them developing or worsening an eating disorder. As long as this information remains online, it is accessible to any number of people who could be brainwashed into believing that mental illnesses are healthy and good. This should, I feel, constitute a need ‘for the protection […] of public health.’ As a result, I declare – Please, Ban All Pro-Ana/Mia Websites!