Date of Defense
Date of Graduation
Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (to 2011)
Gretchen Kauth Morin
The creation of the internet has produced an environment in which many communities have been able to develop into strong and thriving societies. A large number of communities that are now predominantly online were unable to exist successfully before the establishment of the internet for a variety of reasons. The internet has made it easier for people from different backgrounds and locations to network, form communities, and share information with one another. Unfortunately the internet has also given harmful underground communities the opportunity to develop and thrive as well. Socially deviant communities, groups that support ideas and behaviors deemed unacceptable by mainstream society, frequently utilize the internet to establish themselves and exist. Two prominent features of the internet which make it possible for negative underground communities to thrive are its accessibility and ease of anonymity. The internet is exceptionally easy to access. Anyone with a computer and internet access can connect to the internet. Anonymity makes it easy and less risky to post negative and damaging material online. Being difficult to identify makes it unlikely to be held responsible for any questionable or hurtful online activity. One example of a socially deviant society that misuses the internet in this way is the Pro-Anorexia community. Pro-Anorexia, a celebration of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders, is a movement which exists mainly on the internet. Through web pages, forums, and other online features members of the Pro-Ana community share information on self-starvation, encourage one another’s disordered eating, and promote eating disorders as a positive mindset instead of a psychiatric disorder. This celebration and encouragement of maintaining an eating disorder is not accepted by mainstream society, causing it to be very difficult for the movement to be in the eye of the general public. Pro-Ana’s use of the internet not only shows how the internet can be a place for deviant communities to develop, but more broadly how the internet as a tool can be strongly misused.
Thomas, Samantha, "Socially Deviant Communities Online: How the Pro-Anorexia Movement Utilizes the Anonymity Provided by the Internet to Thrive" (2015). Honors Theses. 2617.
Honors Thesis-Open Access