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An Invisible Leverage in the Adoption of Online Social Support Community
Unformatted Document Text:  Running Head: Invisible Leverage in Adoption of Online Social Support Community 2 An Invisible Leverage in the Adoption of Online Social Support Community (OSSC) A recent survey shows that in 2000 fifty-two million Americans or 55% of those with Internet access went online seeking health information. A majority of them went online at least once a month for health information, and their primary reasons were for illness including mental illness rather than for fitness (Fox and Rainie, 2001). Some may just have researched health- related websites in order to obtain professional medical information, and others may also have participated in online communities in the hope that they could find experiential expertise about their illness and disease from fellow sufferers. Besides sharing medical information, participants also benefit from social support exchanged in online communities. Stress research on the buffering hypothesis has evidenced that social support can enhance physical as well as mental health by reducing stressful situations’ negative impact (Cohen and Wills, 1985). Particularly, online social support has been expected to solve such possible problems in traditional face-to-face support groups as participants’ reluctance to join and disclose themselves in a formal group and difficulties attending meetings including a lack of transportation and inconvenient meeting schedules (Weinberg, Schmale, Uken, and Wessel, 1996). Anonymity in online communities also encourages participants to reveal personal and sensitive facts about their medical conditions. Asynchronous communication enables participants to access online communities whenever and wherever they need (Fox and Rainie, 2001). Recognizing these relative advantages of online social support community (OSSC) over traditional face-to-face support groups, many researchers investigated various OSSCs. They examined bulletin boards for patients of breast cancer (Weinberg, Schmale, Uken, & Wessel, 1996; Sharf, 1997), diabetes (Muncer, Loader, Burrows, et.al., 2000), depression (Muncer, Burrows, Pleace, et.al., 2000), hemophilia (Scheerhorn, Warisse, & McNeilis, 1995), and knee injury (Preece, 1999b), as well as, for recovery addicts (King, 1994), for caregivers (Brennan, Moore, & Smith, 1992), for people with disabilities (Braithwaite, Waldron, & Finn, 1999), and for single young mothers (Dunham, Hurshman, Litwin, et. al., 1998). Those studies, however, remained very descriptive by depending on such frequency data as the number of postings per day or per participant and the type of social support exchanged.

Authors: Yun, Haejin., Park, Songyi. and Kim, Hee-Jung.
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Running Head: Invisible Leverage in Adoption of Online Social Support Community
2
An Invisible Leverage in the
Adoption of Online Social Support Community (OSSC)
A recent survey shows that in 2000 fifty-two million Americans or 55% of those with
Internet access went online seeking health information. A majority of them went online at least
once a month for health information, and their primary reasons were for illness including mental
illness rather than for fitness (Fox and Rainie, 2001). Some may just have researched health-
related websites in order to obtain professional medical information, and others may also have
participated in online communities in the hope that they could find experiential expertise about
their illness and disease from fellow sufferers. Besides sharing medical information, participants
also benefit from social support exchanged in online communities.
Stress research on the buffering hypothesis has evidenced that social support can enhance
physical as well as mental health by reducing stressful situations’ negative impact (Cohen and
Wills, 1985). Particularly, online social support has been expected to solve such possible
problems in traditional face-to-face support groups as participants’ reluctance to join and
disclose themselves in a formal group and difficulties attending meetings including a lack of
transportation and inconvenient meeting schedules (Weinberg, Schmale, Uken, and Wessel,
1996). Anonymity in online communities also encourages participants to reveal personal and
sensitive facts about their medical conditions. Asynchronous communication enables
participants to access online communities whenever and wherever they need (Fox and Rainie,
2001).
Recognizing these relative advantages of online social support community (OSSC) over
traditional face-to-face support groups, many researchers investigated various OSSCs. They
examined bulletin boards for patients of breast cancer (Weinberg, Schmale, Uken, & Wessel,
1996; Sharf, 1997), diabetes (Muncer, Loader, Burrows, et.al., 2000), depression (Muncer,
Burrows, Pleace, et.al., 2000), hemophilia (Scheerhorn, Warisse, & McNeilis, 1995), and knee
injury (Preece, 1999b), as well as, for recovery addicts (King, 1994), for caregivers (Brennan,
Moore, & Smith, 1992), for people with disabilities (Braithwaite, Waldron, & Finn, 1999), and
for single young mothers (Dunham, Hurshman, Litwin, et. al., 1998). Those studies, however,
remained very descriptive by depending on such frequency data as the number of postings per
day or per participant and the type of social support exchanged.


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