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The ‘Ana-Lifestyle’: A Social Representations Exploration of how ‘Pro-Ana’ Websites shape Social Norms

Perkins, Jade (2013) The ‘Ana-Lifestyle’: A Social Representations Exploration of how ‘Pro-Ana’ Websites shape Social Norms. Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This research explores the normalisation of anorexia nervosa within pro-anorexia (pro-ana) websites; through looking at how the websites shape and adapt their own social norms. The pro-ana movement emerged in the 1990s; portraying anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle choice rather than a severe disorder (Conrad & Rondini, 2010). The emergence of pro-ana has been correlated with the worsening of anorexia symptoms, and rises in incidence rates (Rouleau & Von Ranson, 2011). This negative impact is thought to result from the normalisation of anorexia within pro-ana websites; however no research currently exists identifying how this normalisation occurs. This research bridged this gap, two websites; ‘Ana Boot Camp’ and ‘Go-Pro: Ana Lives’ were explored using a combination of thematic coding with social representations processes, to provide the best insight into these complex websites. Three themes emerged that contribute to the normalisation of anorexia within the websites: ‘Differentiation’ between anorexia nervosa and ‘ana’; ‘thinspiration’; and ‘extreme dieting’. Furthermore, through the normalisation of these themes; dangerous behaviours are seen as the ‘norm’, and are not considered problematic. However, this is not the case, and societal awareness should be raised to warn individuals not to be taken in by the ‘lifestyle’ promoted on pro-ana websites.

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