Social media websites can be a trap for some battling with eating disorders. For others, social media can be a powerful recovery tool. Rae Smith started a Tumblr blog with the help of her brother, Scotty. They called it The Love Yourself Challenge. Their goal is to share Rae’s struggles and successes on the road to recovery. The siblings thought it might offer hope to others.
Since starting the blog three years ago, their effort has drawn 40,000 followers. It now receives between 150,000 and 200,000 re-posts or ‘likes’ each month. “It really keeps me accountable,” says Smith, a Canadian who lives in Kemptville, Ontario. “Recovery is not this fluid thing where you’re just like, ‘I’m recovered and everything’s perfect.’ There were so many struggles and challenges, and trying to figure out who I am.” But those “joys and deep valleys” are what continue to inspire her blog and give hope to others, she notes.
Sarah Robertson, a 29-year-old from Staffordshire, England, also is using social media. She uses it to send out messages of support to people fighting eating disorders.
In the beginning, Internet sites had fostered her disease. That’s when she was visiting websites that endorsed anorexia as a positive lifestyle choice. But eventually, she realized these sites were hurting her. “I was so angry that I’d gotten so addicted to these websites and these pictures and postings. I felt that I wanted to fill that void with something more positive.” So she started her own blog. On it, she shares the ups and downs of her recovery.
“I wanted to show people that there are people like me that are fighting really hard to escape this illness and create a new community of people that did want to get better,” says Robertson. “I’ve always been really honest and said recovery is so hard. At times I hate it. But I know it’s going to be worth it. Because there’s life at the end of it.”
anorexia nervosa An eating disorder that involves self-starvation and excessive exercise to lose weight.
blog Short for web log, these Internet posts can take the form of news reports, topical discussions, opinionated rants, diaries or photo galleries.
social media Internet-based media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, that allow people to connect with each other (often anonymously) and share information.