8. Personal Relationships and Computer-Mediated Support Groups (Kevin B. Wright / Ahlam Muhtaseb)
Personal Relationships and Computer-Mediated Support Groups
Kevin B. Wright
The Internet has become a widely used resource for obtaining social support within interpersonal relationships (Walther & Boyd, 2002), particularly in the context of health concerns (Neuhauser & Kreps, 2003; Wright & Bell, 2003). One popular way in which the Internet facilitates social support is through access to computer-mediated support groups: individuals interacting in groups using the Internet and the World Wide Web to exchange social support. Websites such as Yahoo! Groups, WebMD, and the American Cancer Society, for example, offer numerous asynchronous and real-time discussion forums where individuals concerned with a specific issue share information and offer emotional assistance. An estimated 90 million Americans have participated in some type of computer-mediated support group and that 1 in 4 people seeking information about disease join such groups (Horrigan & Rainie, 2002; Levy & Strombeck, 2002).
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