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

Fergie, G. , Hunt, K. and 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. (doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.10.006) (PMID:27750067) (PMCID:PMC5115652)

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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.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kathryn and Fergie, Dr Gillian and Hilton, Professor Shona
Authors: Fergie, G., Hunt, K., and Hilton, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO Unit
Journal Name:Social Science and Medicine
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0277-9536
ISSN (Online):0277-9536
Published Online:08 October 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Social Science and Medicine 170:46-54
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
727641SPHSU Core Renewal: Setting and Health Improvement Research ProgrammeKathryn HuntMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/12IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
727671SPHSU Core Renewal: Informing Healthy Public Policy Research ProgrammePeter CraigMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/15IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
656611Understanding and Use of Public Health ResearchShona HiltonMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/6IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
656581Gender and HealthKathryn HuntMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/3IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU