The faces in Facebook

I'm a new Facebook user. It is a fascinating social network - an architecture built of and displaying one's own interests and contacts. I've reconnected with high school classmates and summer camp buddies. I'm getting to know even good friends better.

Then, as so often in life, a trio of related things arrived together - right after I read Grey Thinking's post on "the dark side of inpatient stays" and also right after another friend on Facebook posted a strong plea to eating disorder patients in her circle to stop posting "sick photos," I received this:

"There are photos all over (Facebook) of patients, both inpatient and (day) patients, some seemed to be posing voluntarily ... some were part of the scene and apparently involuntary subjects...

I wondered also if parents knew just how much of a status symbol NG tubes/any feeding tube is, especially among the younger girls ... and especially within the (clinic) culture. I have read on FEAST about the possibility of being tubed/hospitalized as a deterrent to continued ED behavior ... or motivation to work with the family. But so many of these girls seem to *want* a feeding tube ... a symbol of identity, proof to degree of illness, way to defer responsibility for any weight gain on the tube, way to avoid "getting used to eating" so that when the tube is pulled, there isn't an oral intake habit = easier return to restrictive patterns.

...I find many of the photos seem to underscore an atmosphere of summer camp ... "hat day," "PJ day," zip lines and horseback riding while still sporting an NG tube, preening for the camera as if it were a wardrobe accessory of great pride...

Just my two-cents and wonder what your thoughts are on these issues ..."

My thoughts: sadness. My enjoyment of Facebook: tarnished.


  1. I haven't seen any of it, then again I only have 10 facebook friends! I would be shocked if inpatient treatment facilities did let their clients have unsupervised access to the Internet let alone post pictures of themselves while actually inpatient - that sort of thing would definitely be OUT in the only UK inpatient facilities I know.

  2. What a shame the ED is given such importance. It is very sad.

  3. totally get it. There is a huge secret desire to have had your ED take you to certain levels. Hence the fact that there are weight loss competitions on many of the pro ana websites. Each girl wants to be a better ED girl. I am 28, have had an ed for 16 years and feel shame in the ed world that I haven't reached some of the lows that other girls have. I'm not good enough at my eating it's gross...but it's the effed up ED brain.

  4. The true challenge is kicking ED out.
    I lurked on a pro ana site once just to see how they supported and encouraged one another. What a horrible place and even worse use of the internet. Networking like this ought to be banned. I felt compelled to reach out and ask WTF they were doing...feeding a very bad idea. It's anti-life and totally lacks creativity. I think some of the sufferers who begin with encouragement fall into a whole different type of ED, one where they've signed up to join the competition. This is one of the places the internet fails. As much as I do not want censorship I'd like to squash everyone of those sites. They feed a very dangerous demon. The cost of allowing these messages is quite high financially and worse it's life threatening. Not sure we can ban facebook or blog pictures but maybe we need to express how stupid the whole idea is as it may take shame to stop it.
    Rae, you are aware enough to "see" where this leads you. I hope you are able to find the kind of support that leads you to "see" a future more worthy of you and you make a run for it! Honor yourself by giving something of value to the world. Love yourself.

  5. I meant "every one" of those sites...not "everyone". I wouldn't want to go around squashing people.

  6. While I agree that sites that exist for the purpose of promoting sickness should be banned, I don't think that open sites on which people can (and do) post anything can be entirely blamed. The fact that people will use these social networking sites to flaunt their sickness is being used for the positive in Glasgow in Scotland. The police are tracking mainly young men who photograph themselves with their guns, knives and other weapons - and using the pictures to track down the owners and confiscate the weapons.

    On a less serious note, the fashion for luxury eating disorders treatment is being gently mocked by my daughter and her friends who describe their inpatient hospital with full irony as a "resort and spa".

  7. Hi, I'm not a parent, just someone stuck somewhere in the recovery process who lurks and reads forum posts with either interest or fear - depending on what I'm reading. Your blog however, I enjoy reading no matter what. I have been in and out of treatment centers for the past ten years or so and the tube pride is something relatively new that I've been seeing. I don't understand it, as to me the threat of getting tubed brings me shame and outright terror over the lack of control over the food. I have noticed that it seems to be only the adolescents who gain this pride. It saddens me how much they hold out for it, like it's a badge, and how fast ip places now tube.

    Of course, I was over 21 when I finally accepted treatment. However, in my experience when presented with the circumstances, I always refused the tube on the two occasions it came up, and was summarily discharged for noncompliance, since I was over age.

    I think if treatment facilities weren't so fast to tube, perhaps the pride these younger girls feel would not be so, enforced?

    I don't know. After being stuck in this hell now for 20 some years and turning 33 soon, my thoughts may not make sense anymore. I sometimes wish someone could just knock me unconscious, stick a tube in me, and not revive me until I'm recovered, at least weight recovered.

  8. C,Sometimes I feel that way about cleaning the house! If only the stuff would just vanish. : )
    Some things are harder than others. It helps me to pretend I'm on a dig and having fun.
    Maybe you can "fake it till you make it" and tell yourself it's easy. Get yourself some serious support, perhaps someone who'll help you have someone to be accountable to. You deserve help but you might have to stomp your feet to get it. I'm sorry it's so hard for you.
    Hope I haven't offended you.

    M, I agree with the ridiculousness of some treatment centers. Yet with the cost of many basic treatment centers here we could each have our own pink pony. Seriously, at $1000 a day we received old style ditto sheets and a little bit of therapy and she hadn't even met with a nutritionist in the week she attended. The program was adequate but for the cost it was insane. I have high expectations!
    I do think the internet is a fairly new toy for us. Blogs are great ways to share, connect, and write but when it's on the wrong side of the war it's dangerous. The best places have guidelines to keep people in line. Right?
    Ok Laura, tell me to get outta here....bye

  9. Mary - of course you didn't offend me!

    Just wanted to let you know!

    I realized my post was a bit down, so just to reiterate - I'm not giving up on recovery just yet!

  10. Oh good.
    I've known women who have recovered after years of this. It's their daughters who have the ED today. Some have simply decided they had enough and began the journey towards health with nourishment. In fact I bought the book "Full Lives" so I could see that it happens, at the beginning of my daughters ordeal.I've learned so much. You probably know more now too. Now to apply it to your life. Best wishes to you C.

  11. The "tube pics" (tube porn??) make me sick. Perhaps just as egregious are the hospital pics -- girls lying in bed, clad in hospital gowns and wry smiles, close-up shots of IVs and kangaroo pumps. I cannot image documenting such misery for the sake of posterity. As an anorexic, I can somewhat grasp the twisted pride in one's illness...but to the degree that one would display it so publicly strikes me as particularly bizarre.

  12. So sad, I've never heard of such a thing. I don't think this would happen in Oz. They don't allow mobile phones or computers on inpatient wards.
    NG tubes, an identity, label and life saver.
    Sounds like some institutions offer anorexic holidays.
    Facebook, an interesting concept of networking for the younger gen. Can't quite fathom the appeal,apart from downloading photos and quick messages. I must be a Luddite. Some folk put way too much personal info on them.

    C, sometimes they do just that, sedate, tube feed, 24/7 care. No miracle cure but a bump start in recovery. I hope you find the support you need for full recovery.

  13. FWIW, our D is home after a spate of 4 INP stays at 4 different facilities in 3 mo. She claims that at all of them, the kids knew which clinicians or attendants would let you on the computer or use a phone or a camera and that there was always at least one person who would.
    I'm quite sure that in this, she's telling the truth.

    Of course, I'm sitting there wondering WT..... could these people be thinking?!? I think it's possible that they don't realize how much msichief and harm can come out of this. And now I'm going to forward this post to some program directors, for their education.....

  14. I've definitely seen some of that with tubes as a status symbol and all, but I don't think all those pictures of IP places mean that. For a lot of patients, their IP stay was the first time in a long time they were happy and formed relationships with other girls because they were finally getting adequate nutrition. Later they tend to forget the tough parts (or at least not post pictures of them) and idealize their experience. I don't think that means they're thinking of it as a status symbol.

  15. while i agree that the tube can become somewhat of a symbol in these girls, at remuda (as i can tell this is the institution you're referring to) they still eat a maitenence diet while on the tube, so in a way it's easier for them to adjust to eating after they're weight restored. they're also gaining 3 pounds a week at this time, which is probably more than they could consistently gain with oral intake. and, honestly, remuda did have horse riding and zip lining activities, for about a total of 3 hours a week... you can't expect these poor kids to suffer without any enjoyment, when they're taking part in intense therapy and groups the rest of the time


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