Hashtag recovery: #Eating Disorder Recovery on Instagram
People who have experienced eating disorders are making sense of and managing their own health and recoveries, in part by engaging with digital technologies. We analyzed 1056 images related to eating disorder recovery posted to Instagram using the hashtags #EDRecovery, #EatingDisorderRecovery, #AnorexiaRecovery, #BulimiaRecovery and #RecoveryWarrior to explore user performances of eating disorder recovery. We situated our analysis in a critical Deleuzian feminist frame, seeking to understand better how users represented, negotiated, or contested dominant constructions of “how to be recovered”. We identified a number of themes: A Feast for the Eyes, Bodies of Proof, Quotable, and (Im)Perfection. Within each of these themes, we observed links to social location, including the White, Western, middle-to-upper-class trappings that tether representations of eating disorder recovery to stereotypes about who gets eating disorders and may restrict access to the category of recovered. Documenting recovery online may be a way for those in recovery to chart progress and interact with similar others. However, recoveries presented on Instagram resemble stereotypical perspectives on who gets eating disorders and, thus, who might recover, subtly reinforcing a dominant recovery biopedagogy. These versions of recovery may not be available to all, limiting the possibility of engagement for people enacting and embodying diverse recoveries. Still, users make representational interventions into Instagram by making the struggles and challenges of eating disorder recovery visible to each other and to broader audiences.