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Article

Social media as a space for support: Young adults’ perspectives on producing and consuming user-generated content about diabetes and mental health

Citation
Fergie G, Hunt K & Hilton S (2016) Social media as a space for support: Young adults’ perspectives on producing and consuming user-generated content about diabetes and mental health. Social Science and Medicine, 170, pp. 46-54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.10.006

Abstract
Social media offer opportunities to both produce and consume content related to health experiences. However, people's social media practices are likely to be influenced by a range of individual, social and environmental factors. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore how engagement with user-generated content can support people with long-term health conditions, and what limits users’ adoption of these technologies in the everyday experience of their health condition. Forty semi-structured interviews were conducted with young adults, aged between 18 and 30 years, with experience of diabetes or a common mental health disorder (CMHD). We found that the online activities of these young adults were diverse; they ranged from regular production and consumption (‘prosumption’) of health-related user-generated content to no engagement with such content. Our analysis suggested three main types of users: ‘prosumers’ ‘tacit consumers’ and ‘non-engagers’. A key determinant of participants’ engagement with resources related to diabetes and CMHDs in the online environment was their offline experiences of support. Barriers to young adults’ participation in online interaction, and sharing of content related to their health experiences, included concerns about compromising their presentation of identity and adherence to conventions about what content is most appropriate for specific social media spaces. Based on our analysis, we suggest that social media do not provide an unproblematic environment for engagement with health content and the generation of supportive networks. Rather, producing and consuming user-generated content is an activity embedded within individuals’ specific health experiences and is impacted by offline contexts, as well as their daily engagement with, and expectations, of different social media platforms. © 2016 The Authors

Keywords
UK; E-health; Social media; Diabetes; Mental health; Health experiences; Social support

Journal
Social Science and Medicine: Volume 170

StatusPublished
Author(s)Fergie, Gillian; Hunt, Kate; Hilton, Shona
Publication date31/12/2016
Publication date online08/10/2016
Date accepted by journal07/10/2016
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/26976
PublisherElsevier
ISSN0277-9536
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