For my final project I created a website, #ana Digital Stories: Instagram and YouTube. It is divided into 4 sections:

What is #ana ?

Besides the hash tag that I will use here on out when I refer to anorexia, #ana , is succinctly defined by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) as,

characterized by emaciation, a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to   maintain a normal or healthy weight, a  distortion of body image and intense fear of gaining weight, a lack of  menstruation among girls and women, and extremely disturbed eating behavior. Some people with anorexia lose weight by dieting and exercising excessively; others lose weight by self-induced vomiting, or misusing laxatives, diuretics or enemas.

A Note on the Analytical Approach & Methodology

This final project examines photos pulled from Instagram via the hash tag #ana and videos that resulted from searching “anorexia story through pictures” on YouTube.  As texts of not only visual culture but as digital stories across a spectrum of time, they each offer a unique glimpse into the two social media communities created around anorexia.  Specifically, this project looks at the content and form of these texts.  For the videos, I use the questions Joe Lambert poses in Digital Storytelling:  Capturing Lives, Creating Community  (2010) to approach the videos as recovery and accomplishment stories.  The questions are as follows:

·       What was the event (time, place, incident, or series of incidents)?

·       What was the relationship to the event?

·       With whom did you experience this event?

·       Was there a defining moment in the event?

·       How did you feel during this event (fear, exhilaration,      sharpened awareness, joy…)?

·       What did the event teach you?

·       How did this event change your life?

On Instagram, I suggest that the photos themselves, as well as the hash tags, captions, comments, and the “bio” section, play the role of content and form.  The photos on Instagram, at least from what I observed, are digital stories by teenage girls struggling with #ana who have not recovered.  This also means that the community on Instagram is mostly made up of teenage girls who are flocking to find others with #ana for “solidarity”, users swaying the teen age girls to keep on going with #ana (i.e. complimenting how good they look), with a few users here and there that are offering to “help” the teen age girls.  Whereas the YouTube videos echo stories of recovery and the community is made of teenage girls that are recovered or on their way to recovery and of users who are, in short, rooting for their recovery.

From the copious amount of #ana photos and videos, six photos and three videos were chosen based on the date that they had been posted.   The YouTube videos selected were chosen as follows: one that had been posted within a year, another within the last six months, and the last within weeks of December 3rd , 2013.  I entertained the possibility of not including the videos I found on YouTube given that they are comprised of clear full body photos of teenage girls.  Nevertheless, I chose to include the video, since all three users at some point expressed they wanted to raise awareness about #ana by sharing her story , whether in the video or in the “description” section.  The photos selected from Instagram were taken hours, minutes, or a week from December 5th, 2013.  Taking into consideration the delicate subject matter and the ages of the teenage girls, the chosen photos did not include the faces of the users.  However, the photos that were extracted via the #ana search proved that the users were intentional about hiding their faces, as many of the accounts on Instagram were “secret accounts”, a finding that will be discussed under the Instagram section.  The Instagram photos were chosen based on the themes of thinspiration, comments, and secret accounts.



  1. Your website models an effective way to “publish” academic work about DST so that it is both potentially available to the community that it studies while also making your research available to other scholars within the vernaculars it studies. I do wonder about your outsider role here: on the one hand, it provides important distance (as the outsider can always do) on a community whose myopia can produce, perhaps, dangerous outcomes; on the other, it is clear that you judge a community on different terms than the community itself deems as defining, thereby missing some cultural meanings that are, by definition, part of the community’s project (as must be true for any outsider, although of course, “field work,” and immersion are created to close some of this gap…)

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