THE BLOG
03/03/2015 07:26 GMT | Updated 02/05/2015 06:59 BST

Pro-Ana Has Changed Shape

I feel that the presence of pro-ana on the internet is stronger than ever but it is twisting itself into different forms. In recent years the internet has cracked down on pro-ana websites and many get blocked and deleted. There are far less websites nowadays compared to five or six years ago. I remember going on one when I was at school, it was a proper website and there was a forum, pages for photographs of emaciated girls, pages for celebrities that were 'thinspiring' and tips on how to lose weight and be 'anorexic'. As far as I am aware this website no longer exists and the number of sites like this have reduced hugely.

Recently I have noticed that pro-ana is beginning to exist in a different way, it has sneaked into our social networks such as twitter and Instagram and there seems to be so much of it that whether you look for it or not you come across it. People used to have to search for pro-ana to find the websites but now it's on the #recovery and #healthy hashtags on Instagram. It's scarily accessible. When pro-ana existed as full websites the owner of the site would've known exactly what they were doing. The owner may have been unwell too but they would have known that they were encouraging anorexia on a large scale but now with these posts on Instagram I don't think that people realise they are encouraging other people. One user posted a photo of an emaciated woman's back, it is not her back and the caption talks about her worries of seeing her dietician. That user is probably thinking only about her illness and isn't intentionally encouraging anorexia but by posting it under the #quotes #lonely and #anorexia hashtags for all to see it becomes pro-ana. Even the seemingly positive, recovery accounts on Instagram contain what I consider to be a form of pro-ana.

Some accounts post their entire miniscule, low calorie intake every single day next to photos of their or someone else's very underweight body. On Thursday, Throwback Thursday posts appear and many accounts seems to post the thinnest photo they own of themselves and I can understand some saying how far they have come but many give off the vibe that they are trying to compare and almost compete with others. There are constant reassurance questions on recovery accounts that could be pro-ana twisting into a different form. "The photo on the right is me weight restored, the left is now, do you think I look really fat weight restored?" "Can someone estimate the calories in this?" "What do you think my BMI is?" These can be very dangerous questions for the individual, what if someone guesses a BMI much higher than yours is? BMI cannot be guessed from a photograph, if it could then eating disorder services wouldn't bother weighing their patients.

I often see a lot of nastiness in what is supposedly a recovery community, people telling others they eat unhealthily or indirectly posting about someone who challenged themselves to something that someone didn't think was challenging but everyone is at different stages in recovery and everyone's eating disorders are individual to them. What you find challenging I may find easy and vice versa. Eating disorders aren't a competition but neither is recovery.

There are also the posts that say "If I reach 4000 followers then I will eat a fear food" in reality that isn't much worse to the posts that say "one like=one hour fasting" You are in control of your eating disorder, nobody else is, you should not be basing your recovery on how many followers you have or using your illness to manipulate others into following you. Eat a fear food because you want to live and enjoy your life and be free of this horrific mental illness, not because you want followers in the virtual world.

It is great that recovery accounts exist, we need to talk about mental health more to raise awareness and let other people know that it is okay to talk. We can use recovery and mental health accounts to educate and inspire but when you are posting you have to be aware that the majority of your followers are probably unwell too and you need to think, "Is this telling someone how to have an eating disorder?" and "Could this trigger other people or cause harm to someone else?" It is so simple to upload a post onto Instagram and twitter but you cannot simplify these illnesses and the effect of sharing things that could potentially cause damage to an individual and also to society overall. We need to fight stigma and stereotypes, not cause them. Pro-ana has changed form and we need to be aware of this and be careful that we don't fall into the trap too.