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Online Social Support: The Interplay of Social Networks and Computer-Mediated Communi ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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Online Social Support:

Chapter 1

Introduction

The number of people who go online to find support is growing rapidly. Individuals who join an online support group become part of an electronic social network. One benefit of being connected to a social network is the prospect of increased access to valuable resources (Berkman, Glass, Brissette, & Seeman, 2000; Friedmann, 1988; Granovetter, 1973; Wellman & Wortley, 1990). Social support is a primary example of a resource that can be passed through social ties and has demonstrated an ameliorating effect on health and well-being (Kaplan, Cassel, & Gore, 1977; for reviews see Berkman & Breslow 1983; House, Umberson, & Landis, 1988). The electronic social network an online support group creates can potentially provide the benefits of social support traditionally conveyed face-to-face without conventional limitations of material resources, proximity, and temporality. This work examines two weeks of discussion on the SOL-Cancer (Support OnLine) Forum1 to clarify the patterns of relations that develop in an online environment and the impact they have on the availability and transmission of social support.