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Social support, Social belongingness, and psychological well-being: Benefits of Online healthcare community membership
conference contributionposted on 2023-08-28, 06:48 authored by SS Erfani, B Abedin, Y Blount
Despite an increase in users interacting using Online Social Network Sites, the value they generate for health purposes are under-researched. Previous research has mainly focused on the capacity of Online Social Network Sites for improving social and organisational value. Yet, the value of these platforms can be investigated in the other context such as health. This paper studies the value of membership in health related Online Social Network Sites, and in particular investigates how participation in such communities benefits users' psychological well-being. Twenty-five qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with users of the Ovarian Cancer Australia Facebook page (OCA Facebook), the exemplar online community used in this study. The participants were people who were affected by ovarian cancer and were members of the OCA Facebook community where they exchanged information and received support. Using a multi-theory perspective to interpret the data, results showed that a sense of belongingness to a community with like-minded people as well as receiving social support through message exchange in the community were two main perceived benefits of the OCA online community membership. Findings also showed that most interviewees used OCA Facebook on a daily basis. While some were passive users and only read/observed the content crated by others, other users actively posted content and communicated with other members. The paper concludes with implications of the results, recommendations for future studies and proposes a qualitative theoretical framework to examine the value of online communities in a more holistic way.