The current study aims to explore the determinants of perceived quality of online relations (QOR) and interactions in a survey of online support community members consisting of individuals coping with stigmatized health conditions. The researchers draw upon previous research on online support groups, weak ties, willingness to communicate about health, and self-disclosure. Several hypotheses among these variables are advanced and tested using a structural equation model. The analyses show that the average quality of relations in these support groups is fairly high. Attitudinal similarity and the extent of writing messages (versus merely reading posts) are two important interactional factors that determine QOR. In addition, they explain the effects of the individual factors willingness to communicate, weak-tie preference, and gender. For instance, women are more likely to open up online, by writing more messages, and this explains why they end up in higher-quality interactions. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed as well as key limitations to the study and future directions for research in this area.
|Title of host publication||Social Support and Health in the Digital Age|
|Editors||Nichole Egberts, Kevin B. Wright|
|Number of pages||20|
|Publication status||Published - 2019|
|Name||Lexington Studies in Health Communication|
- social support
- online communities