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By Malissa Vitalone

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The way that people think and feel about themselves is always changing.  The way that we identify ourselves is no longer just based upon our moral or ethnic backgrounds.  According to the Self-Categorization Theory by John Turner, “self-concept consists of at least two levels: a personal identity and a social one.” This means that our self-concept/identity relies on our perception of ourselves and the way that others perceive us.

Looking into one of the popular trends on the website Pinterest, we are able to apply this theory of self-categorization.  The ProAna (Pro Anorexia) trend on Pinterest is continuing to grow at a very rapid rate. ProAna stands for Pro Anorexia.  The pins found on the Pinterest boards for ProAna focus on telling women that being anorexic is glamorous. They portray the message that being anything but skinny is unacceptable.  This is a growing trend on Pinterest. There are hundreds of posts on Pinterest in support of ProAna every day. They are glorifying a disorder that has the potential to kill.

The self-categorization theory explains that we identify ourselves based upon what we think about ourselves and what others think about us.  The ProAna Pinterest site gives hundreds of examples of what others think about people who are fat.  In the self-categorization theory the ProAna Pinterest site is the second part of what makes up our identity: what others think about us.  Even though the ProAna Pinterest site is not naming someone by name, it is speaking to everyone and anyone who identifies themselves as being overweight.

Some women look at this site and adapt it into their identity.  These pins and boards do not just represent the identity of the person that makes the post, but it is also becoming part of the identity of those that follow ProAna on Pinterest. One of these pins on the ProAna page states that “the world of skinny isn’t perfect, but it’s a million times better than the world of fat.” When we look at the self-categorization theory and apply it here, the outcome can be frightening. For example, consider a girl with a low self-concept of herself because she thinks she is “fat”. One day the girl comes across the ProAna Pinterest page. Seeing what these “pins” say about having to be skinny, she takes that and applies it to her identity. Since she already has the predisposition that she thinks she is “fat”, looking at the ProAna site will show her what others consider skinny and their perception will now become part of her self-concept/identity.

Society needs to get away from what is considered “skinny” and “fat” and start focusing on what is healthy.

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