Negative health events can cause considerable stress in patients, negatively impacting both physical health and psychological well-being. To cope, many patients turn to socially supportive interactions and social media has become an important tool for accessing social support networks. However, research on the mental and physical health outcomes of social media-enabled social support seeking has produced conflicting results. This inconsistency in research findings has made it difficult for practitioners to make recommendations to patients on how to access online social support following negative health events. In this short commentary, I argue that effective access to stress-buffering social support online is intimately tied up in features of the social media platforms through which that support is transmitted. I propose three theory-backed distinctions between social media platforms with the goal of directing users toward effective, helpful social media engagement following negative health events.
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© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.
- Computer-mediated communication
- Social media
- Social support