Teenage girls’ first-person narratives about weight perception and dangerous weight loss practices: A study of five blogs from LiveJournal.com
Moscovitch, Erica Raina
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In Western cultures, social significations are associated with body weight and shape (Woolf, 1990, as cited by Malson, 1998). Thinness is especially valued and especially for women and girls. As a result, many teenage girls aim to be thinner. This thesis examines five blogs on the website LiveJournal that are written by teenage girls who perceive themselves as overweight and who use blogs to talk about their attempts to lose weight. All five of these girls say that they practice at least one extreme method of weight loss and all of them have dangerously low weight loss goals. Two research questions motivated this study: 1) how do teenage girls who perceive themselves as overweight use blogs in their journeys to lose weight? 2) Can LiveJournal, or any other personal blogging site, provide a useful source for researchers so that they can learn about eating disorders in girls’ own words? The blogs provided a tool by which I could discover first-hand experiences of teenage girls who are trying to lose weight. Essentially, the blogs were used as both the data and the mean by which the data was collected. My results suggest that girls rarely discuss their weight loss practices with family or friends and thus their blogs provide a space where they can share their experiences and receive support and encouragement from other members of their online community who will not judge or stigmatize them. The results of this study are useful for social science researchers in two ways. First, the results provide important information pertaining to first-personal narratives about body image, weight loss and the practice of extreme methods of weight loss by teenage girls who perceive themselves as overweight. Second, the results provide useful information for social researchers seeking to use blog research for their projects. This project highlights the benefits of blog research and provides a sort of how-to for future researchers hoping to use the method.