Seeking out very like-minded others: exploring trust and advice issues in an online health support group

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Online health communities are one source of information and advice in which people, patients and their carers can exchange information and experiential advice. This advice is likely to be mixed in nature with some congenial, i.e., supportive of a person's existing standpoint and some uncongenial. This study examines how people manage the process of advice giving in a cancer support group. A discourse analysis of data collected from an online message forum explores how participants manage to ask for and offer advice within a peer setting. The findings highlight a group who collectively see advice giving as one of their key functions and have developed mechanisms for portraying their competence and trustworthiness. Advice seekers use their initial message as a positioning statement to indicate the boundaries associated with their decision making and the parameters within which advice givers are permitted to operate. Members use a number of discursive techniques to deal with uncongenial advice including, humour, alignment with unnamed others and the presentation of idiosyncratic reasoning. Seeking out very like-minded others provides support and reinforcement for pre-existing views. The results are discussed in terms of the role of online health communities in decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-394
JournalInternational Journal of Web Based Communities
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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