OK. I've been immersed in community recently, running the Edblog Awards an all. And for me it's been a positive, engaging and constructive experience (all of it, including the disagreements). I've also been very involved in (and am committed to continuing to be involved in) anti-censorship and access issues, particularly those where children young adults and their rights are concerned.
This post then has been a while coming because it's something that still bugs the hell out of me, and something that I am working towards being able to articulate my objection to in a reasonable, or at lest, un-harmful, way. I've been following Liz Ditz recent series on blogging and Moral Panic with real interest, not least because it ties in well with issues that the edublog community are reckoning with and organising in response to right now. Part IV - Real Risks is out now and addresses bullying and victimisation - topics that we really need to face up to right now. What it leaves out, and what I'd like to draw attention to here, is equally as complex: Identity communities that are life threatening or explicitly nihilistic. I really, really don't want to match these communities in terms of their own (sometimes very accurately portrayed) melodrama, at the same time I'm totally weirded out that no one else is posting about ana/mia (or ana/mia/ed) blogs and blog rings. Ana/mia is short for (& I'm sure that some of you reading this will already know) anorexia, bulimia, ed for Eating Disorder.
It was about six years ago that I became aware of ana/mia sites, and of course the ease and accessibility of web 2.0 was going to extend to these kind of sites and girls and women (and some men) in search of these communities, this kind of voice. I didn't really want to think about it, suddenly, I find myself thinking about it more and more.
Ana/mi blogs and blog rings - you can find a whole load, covering Live Journal, Xanga and MSN Spaces blogs and communities. It isn't hard to find them - you can search under ana/mia or look under diet. They typically consist of tips for hiding not eating from the people around you, reports about not eating, and pictures of models and anorexics. This is a formula that hasn't changed in the last however many years.
I'm certainly not putting this post forward as a reason we need to crack down on young peoples internet access even further. I really want to be able to engage in a realistic dialogue about how the internet is being used by children and young people, including all the crappy, hard to deal with ways, because I know that this is part of a wider dialogue about how we educate and engage them in society and politics. So I want to make it clear that I'm not judging these bloggers or shouting "eat some pies!" at them, neither of which would make the slightest difference to when this current crop of bloggers live or die - neither am I at all pro-ana. It's obvious that they get a lot of the same benefits from blogging as I do - community building, self affirmation, belonging. And maybe one in fifty of these blogs are recovery based. But...