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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 4 both online and off-line) might increase through social contacts made on the Internet. Their finding further disputed the Internet Paradox that the Internet increases social isolation (Kraut, Patterson, Kiesler, Mukophadhy & Scherlis, 1998). Cummings, Sproull and Kiesler’s (2002) survey of an online self-help group for people with hearing loss found evidence that integration of online and off-line support benefited online social support participants. Those with off-line social support from family and friends had family and friends also participate in the online self-help group, and this integration provided the hearing loss self-help group participants with more informational and emotional benefits. An underlying assumption in the above studies seems to be that online communities are an emerging new phenomenon. As a result, they tend to focus on relative advantages of online social support communities (OSSC) over traditional face-to-face support groups such as anonymity and convenience. This tendency has led researchers to conclude how and what distinctive characteristics of computer-mediated communication (CMC) foster the growth of OSSC. In addition, such studies employed survey methods and explored individual factors that might affect online social support seeking. Few studies have tried to examine factors other than individual ones. A recent statistic that 72 million Americans or 70% of Internet users stay in regular contact with at least one particular online community (Horrigan, 2001) suggests an alternative perspective on OSSC. The growth of online communities might have passed its early infant stage. Yahoo provides a long list of online discussion groups under 16 categories. In May 2002, the health and wellness category alone contains 50, 812 groups with 18 subcategories. A total of 8,913 groups are housed in the illness subcategory. The illness subcategory lists 131 different illnesses. Internet users now seem to face another decision to make. Which online community will most satisfy their needs? The present study, therefore, proposes a comparison among OSSCs as opposed to a comparison between OSSCs and face-to-face social support groups in previous studies. That is, the present study intends to examine differences among OSSCs to better understand online social support in conjunction with the social network analysis approach. As more people get used to the notion of OSSC, a wider assortment of OSSCs is available to potential participants now. However, no study has examined why they participate in one, but not in another. The present research employs a structural perspective rather than an individual approach. That is, the study

Authors: Yun, Haejin., Park, Songyi. and Kim, Hee-Jung.
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Running Head: Invisible Leverage in Adoption of Online Social Support Community
4
both online and off-line) might increase through social contacts made on the Internet. Their
finding further disputed the Internet Paradox that the Internet increases social isolation (Kraut,
Patterson, Kiesler, Mukophadhy & Scherlis, 1998).
Cummings, Sproull and Kiesler’s (2002) survey of an online self-help group for people
with hearing loss found evidence that integration of online and off-line support benefited online
social support participants. Those with off-line social support from family and friends had
family and friends also participate in the online self-help group, and this integration provided the
hearing loss self-help group participants with more informational and emotional benefits.
An underlying assumption in the above studies seems to be that online communities are
an emerging new phenomenon. As a result, they tend to focus on relative advantages of online
social support communities (OSSC) over traditional face-to-face support groups such as
anonymity and convenience. This tendency has led researchers to conclude how and what
distinctive characteristics of computer-mediated communication (CMC) foster the growth of
OSSC. In addition, such studies employed survey methods and explored individual factors that
might affect online social support seeking. Few studies have tried to examine factors other than
individual ones.
A recent statistic that 72 million Americans or 70% of Internet users stay in regular
contact with at least one particular online community (Horrigan, 2001) suggests an alternative
perspective on OSSC. The growth of online communities might have passed its early infant
stage. Yahoo provides a long list of online discussion groups under 16 categories. In May 2002,
the health and wellness category alone contains 50, 812 groups with 18 subcategories. A total of
8,913 groups are housed in the illness subcategory. The illness subcategory lists 131 different
illnesses. Internet users now seem to face another decision to make. Which online community
will most satisfy their needs?
The present study, therefore, proposes a comparison among OSSCs as opposed to a
comparison between OSSCs and face-to-face social support groups in previous studies. That is,
the present study intends to examine differences among OSSCs to better understand online social
support in conjunction with the social network analysis approach. As more people get used to
the notion of OSSC, a wider assortment of OSSCs is available to potential participants now.
However, no study has examined why they participate in one, but not in another. The present
research employs a structural perspective rather than an individual approach. That is, the study


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