- On social media platforms and on blog sites, disordered behavior as a lifestyle choice is a growing trend that supports and promotes behaviors related to self-harm and anorexia. Web content advocating self-harm and anorexia can be found easily through search engines or can be concealed in the social media sphere through deliberately misused language and creative hashtags. Existing scholarly literature includes information regarding the language used on social media platforms and on blogs sites when material is written in English; however, there is little research exploring these phenomena as they are communicated in Spanish.
The present study, which used a synchronic corpus linguistic design, has two arms, both of which examined public Tumblr posts. The first arm focused on pro-nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) posts, and the second arm scrutinized pro-anorexia (pro-ana) posts. Posts were scraped when they included Spanish language and/or hashtags and when they also utilized hashtags identifying the post as pro-NSSI or pro-ana. The research questions for the arms were as follows: First, in public Tumblr posts written in Spanish, what was the use rate of specific words for individuals posting content of a pro-NSSI or pro-ana nature? Second, in public pro-NSSI or pro-ana Tumblr posts written in English, what was the use rate of pronoun categories? Third, in public pro-NSSI or pro-ana Tumblr posts written in English, did the use rate of pronoun categories differ from norms for such posts? And, finally, in public pro-NSSI or pro-ana Tumblr posts written in Spanish, did the use rate of the psychological process categories differ from norms for such posts?
Following an analysis of the data with Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) software, the first arm of the study revealed the use of high levels of negative emotion words in the dominant language. The results also revealed possible depression, perceived lower social status and users’ efforts to distance themselves from their emotions when writing in the non-dominant language (English). Overall, these results demonstrated that people posting on Tumblr about NSSI are suffering and in need of help. The results of the second arm of the study revealed that reliance on pronouns increased users’ focus on people and objects, which has been linked to decreased likelihood of recovery. The psychological properties of the posts had a negative emotional tone and significant use of ingestion and health words, signaling potential symptoms of anorexia.
Considering the extent of both research arms, the results show that these overlapping populations struggle to manage intense negative emotions. This research points to the benefits both of assessing bilingual clients for NSSI and anorexia symptoms and of evaluating their online posting behaviors. So, too, do these studies underscore the need for improved evidence-based treatment for trauma in bilingual individuals and the importance of devising Spanish and codeswitching blog norms to inform future research. Finally, these results can have profound implications for clinical treatment by informing the counseling theories used to treat these populations, by transforming how counselors are trained to assess and respond to NSSI and anorexia behaviors, and by investigating how research can reveal the nuances of language such that scholars better appreciate the difficult issues confronting teens and young adults.