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


  • Dr Anna Lavis

    University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

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.