Qualitative Study of Online Health Community Use

To understand why and how people share health information online, we interviewed fourteen people with significant health concerns who participate in both online health communities and Facebook. Qualitative analysis of these interviews highlighted the ways that people think about with whom and how to share different types of information as they pursue social goals related to their personal health, including emotional support, motivation, accountability, and advice. Our study suggests that success in these goals depends on how well they develop their social networks and how effectively they communicate within those networks. Effective communication is made more challenging by the need to strike a balance between sharing information related to specific needs and the desire to manage self-presentation. Based on these observations, we outline a set of design opportunities for future systems to support health-oriented social interactions online, including tools to help users shape their social networks and communicate effectively within those.

Paper: “It’s not that I don’t have problems, I’m just not putting them on Facebook”: Challenges and Opportunities in Using Online Social Networks for Health, CSCW 2011. (pdf)

Research Team:

Debra Lauterbach, dlauter@umich.edu, Research Intern and Study Coordinator
Sean Munson, samunson@umich.edu, PhD Student
Mark W. Newman, mwnewman@umich.edu, Assistant Professor
Paul Resnick, presnick@umich.edu, Professor