While I was free associating, I remember some time ago that anorexia had become fashionable among certain people, and that it was now referred to as as goddess named "Ana" (you can probably guess whom "Mia" is supposed to represent). That sort of freaky thing is my kind of bag you know, baby, so I tried to dig up some of these ana worshiping sites.
Google, not surprisingly, turns up a lot of stories about the epidemic of the big (heh) on anorexia crowd. But, perhaps, unsurprisingly, not a lot of sites devoted to it.
Of course wikipedia came to my rescuse and introduced me to both the terms "thinspiration" and "pro-ana". A little more digging brought me to House of Thin as well pro-ana-nation. Both of them seem to be more concerned with dealing with anorexia as a disease, and the pro-ana is more "pro-anorexics" than "pro-anorexia".
It's not hard to draw a comparison between something like this Ana and Mia nonsense and something like self cutting. Though I wager that cutting is more common than kooks who actively thing that anorexia is a great life style choice, the (admittedly two) websites I looked at seemed to display the same sort of imagery, text, and tone that we have all come to lovingly associate with being "emo". In undergrad we called them "PIBs", that's pee-eye-bees, as in "people in black", because, it was, you know, amusing to marginalize people who are already ostracized by society.
This isn't to knock the kid who is cutting himself, or to knock the folks who have managed to get so screwed up that anorexia is a viable option for them. Both of those actions are underpinged by serious psychological problems. It's not like you can "snap out of it". Furthermore, I don't disbelieve that there is bound to be some site out there, amongst the millions and millions of sites, that caters to how to both cut and purge "better", more effectively, with less chance of detection. The internet is a wide and scary place, and as someone said, no matter what you're most treasured childhood memory may be, there's porn to it. Out there. On the internets.
However, the Ana and Mia crap is, in my deeply researched opinion, some sensationalist bullcrap cooked up from some reporter. Just like the regularly scheduled drug scare stories that, when you read them closely, don't make any sense. Like the rampant use of heroin, especially the oh-so-scary "cheese" heroin, in the Dallas area. It was on the front page of CNN. Some poor guy's son died from it. It's everywhere, right? Searching on "rampant drug use dallas" says that 21 kids have died from it since 2005. Eh, okay, no primary source given, but let's look a little deeper.
According to their website, Plano ISD alone has 51,000 kids (That obviously doesn't include the other independent school districts in Dallas. I have no idea how many more times that would be, 5, 10, what.) Assuming that the same 51,000 kids don't change from 2005- 2007, that's .04% of the population dying from heroin. Of course that's making a lot of assumptions.
From 1994-2005, 31,000 people died due to teen drivers in Dallas. Doing the division gives you 3444 people killed per year by teen drivers. Of course some of those folks aren't teens. So cut it in half. And round down. 1700 teens killed each year by teen drivers. Or 80 times as many killed by heroin over a three year period.
And, again, that's making a lot of assumptions (number of teens, Dallas vs. Plano numbers, etc). But the point is clear: it's not killing people off in swathes. Driving however is.
Heroin use simply isn't on the rise. Just because some kinds in Dallas are killing themselves with it doesn't mean it's on the rise everywhere, and it doesn't even mean it's on the rise in Plano. Random clustering is a fact of life in statistics.
I veered off into talking about how silly the "cheese" scare mongering is because it's just as silly as the pro-ana scare mongering. You look on the internets long enough, you'll find all sorts of disturbing crap, from cannibalism to John Ashcroft. That is the difficulty. You want to be apprised of dangers in your life, but like the Freakonomics guy pointed, we are bad at assessing risk. He uses the example that your kid is a lot more likely to drown in a pool than get shot accidentally, but that people are more comfortable sending their child to the friend's house with the pool than the friend's house with a gun.
Bruce Schneir, in Beyond Fear, made the same point. Dramatic risks (terrorists blowing up your building, which as he points out has an approximately zero percentage chance of killing you) make a huge impact, whereas everyday risks do not (dying from falling in your house is a relatively common occurence that happens 137 per year in West Virginia alone - with a shamefully amusiung picture at the top).
And add in that news papers, at the end of the day, want to titillate and appeal. Natalie Holloway is big news, as is something like heroin burning through the staunchest white republican area you can imagine. I further imagine that Ana and Mia are diseases exclusively of an upper class nature. If you've got real problems, are you really going to have time to get farked in the head enough to starve yourself to death?