Computer-Mediated Social Support

Promises and Pitfalls for Individuals Coping with Health Concerns

Authored by: Kevin B. Wright , Amy Janan Johnson , Daniel R. Bernard , Joshua Averbeck

The Routledge Handbook of Health Communication

Print publication date:  April  2011
Online publication date:  August  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415883146
eBook ISBN: 9780203846063
Adobe ISBN: 9781136931673

10.4324/9780203846063.ch22

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Abstract

The communication of social support has been predominantly studied as a phenomenon that occurs in face-to-face interaction. Although face-to-face communication is certainly an important source of social support, this traditional focus on face-to-face support neglects the fact that social support frequently occurs in a variety of communication modalities and computer-mediated supportive discourse may even be preferred in some circumstances (Walther & Parks, 2002). The advent of the Internet has had a significant impact on support-seeking behaviors (Neuhauser & Kreps, 2003). Online support groups have proliferated in the past decade: An estimated 90 million Americans have participated in some type of computer-mediated support group. It appears that the growth of online support groups will continue to be an important context for social support interactions.

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