Managing a marginalised identity in pro-anorexia and fat acceptance cybercommunities

Naomi Smith, Rebecca Wickes, Mair Underwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines how members of pro-anorexia (PA) and fat acceptance (FA) cybercommunities manage their ascribed ‘offline’ socially marginalised identity in an ‘online’ environment. While much of the sociological literature continues to focus on the corporeal or face-to-face practices of socially marginalised groups, we use online non-participant observation to explore how members of these sites use the internet to manage their marginalised identities. We find that cybercommunities provide a safe place for identity management where members come together to understand, negotiate and, at times, reject the marginalised identity ascribed to them in their offline environment. From the accounts of the PA and FA members we studied, we find that online and offline identities are mutually reinforcing and collectively inform and shape identity. However, the online environment provides an anonymised space for identity work, emotional support and an acceptance of their body, whatever their shape or size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)950-967
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • cybercommunities
  • deviance
  • fat acceptance
  • identity
  • identity management
  • pro-anorexia

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