Virtual scars: exploring the ethics of care on social media through interactions around self-injury


  • Dr Anna Lavis

    University of Birmingham

Project summary

Research has illustrated that cyberspace comprises enactments of care for, and about, self and others, albeit ambivalent. Yet there has not been a comprehensive interrogation or theorising of the forms such caring takes, the ethical challenges it poses, or its potential relevance to clinical practice. 

Drawing on the anthropology of ethics, and cross-disciplinary analyses of care, this research will address this lack through an online ethnography of self-injury. Self-injury blurs neat care/harm distinctions, with individuals describing it as a practice of survival. It is also the focus of myriad cyber-discussions, spaces and hashtags. 

Self-injury, therefore, offers a key critical lens through which to approach the complexities and ethical uncertainties of what it means 'to care' on, and through, social media. This will set in motion a programme of activities to explore more widely intersections of health, care and social media, inviting discussions of other empirical, socio-cultural and political contexts, and their ethical challenges.