I have been met with more challenges and frustrations that I had anticipated.
Accessibility has proven to be problematic, and has exacerbated my concerns about conducting this research ethically. It seems that these sites, while active, are not as active as they were about 2 years ago. Many web rings and link pages have dead links. Many of the sites and blogs have not been updated for some time (1-2 years). The forums I have gained access to are often not frequented. The last time I logged into 'glitter veins' I was one of three users. It seems that these sites had a veritable hey-day and their popularity has dwindled significantly.
Speaking of access, I had an interesting experience lately. In attempting to gain access to a forum, I was asked to 'apply'. This meant that I had to fill out a detailed form that required me to disclose my 'eating disorder' (ED) as well as explanation of my desire to join the group. The application was prefaced by a disclaimer that warned against fakers (aka- people like me!). Needless to say, I was confused. I am not about to pose as someone who has an eating disorder, but as a young female, is it unethical to say that sometimes I struggle with my body image? This was the route I took in the explanation part, just to see if I would be approved. I haven't heard back. I didn't make the cut.
I have contacted all of the 'web-mistresses' or hosts of these sites and only one woman has e-mailed me back. She seemed eager to exchange thoughts as well as to dispell the myths around these sites. However, she has not returned any of my subsequent e-mails.
Another access/ ethical issue I have is that many of the girls on these sites are really young. I'm talking 12-15 years old. There is something about this age group that makes me particularly tentative.
So while I can't gain access by being 'one of the group' in any legitimate way, I was thinking of a new approach to my participation. I thought that maybe I would simply start posting links to 'recovery sites', or information clinics and see what kind of reaction surfaces. Perhaps if I did this in the least threatening way I can think of it will be helpful. Any thoughts? please!?