Social network sites (SNSs) like Twitter continue to attract users, many of whom turn to these spaces for social support for serious illnesses like cancer. Building on literature that explored the functionality of online spaces for health-related social support, we propose a typology that situates this type of support in an SNS-based open cancer community based on the type (informational or emotional) and the direction (expression or reception) of support. A content analysis applied the typology to a 2-year span of Twitter messages using the popular hashtag “#stupidcancer.” Given that emotions form the basis for much of human communication and behavior, including aspects of social support, this content analysis also examined the relationship between emotional expression and online social support in tweets about cancer. Furthermore, this study looked at the various ways in which Twitter allows for message sharing across a user’s entire network (not just among the cancer community). This work thus begins to lay the conceptual and empirical groundwork for future research testing the effects of various types of social support in open, interactive online cancer communities.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health(social science)