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Title: Self-Disclosure In Online Support Groups For People Living With Depression
Keywords: self-disclosure, online support groups, depression, symbolic interactionism, interactive approach to self-disclosure
Issue Date: 10-Jan-2011
Citation: ZHU QINFENG (2011-01-10). Self-Disclosure In Online Support Groups For People Living With Depression. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This research examines self-disclosure in text-based online support groups for people living with depression. By setting symbolic interactionism as the theoretical framework, this research develops an interactive approach to self-disclosure. This approach emphasizes an ongoing process of self-disclosure and meanings of self-disclosure that are generated and interpreted in this process. With the guidance of the interactive approach to self-disclosure, this research examines the prevalence, conversational characteristics, and meanings of self-disclosure in online support groups for people living with depression. This thesis comprises two studies: quantitative content analysis to analyze written disclosure contained in messages posted in the group and in-depth interview with the group participants. The results from content analysis show that self-disclosure is a relatively common communication activity in online support groups for people living with depression, which is characteristic of high intimacy. As to the conversational interaction of self-disclosure, messages containing self-disclosure are more likely to receive social support than those containing no self-disclosure. These results are in contrast to existing findings that depressed individuals tend to inhibit themselves from self-disclosure in offline social interaction and that depressed individuals? self-disclosure often meets rejections from non-depressed others. The in-depth interview shows that interpretation of meanings of self-disclosure arising from offline personal interaction guides and forms depressed individuals? self-disclosure in online support groups. To be specific, participants who see self-disclosure as action that could create damage in offline interpersonal relationships inhibit themselves from self-disclosure in offline social interaction but disclose themselves as a way of venting repressed selves in online support groups. Participants who see self-disclosure as a hopeless effort to gain support from others in offline personal interaction disclose themselves in online support groups with the expectation of gaining empathy and healing information. Some participants avoid self-disclosure both in offline personal interaction and in the online support group, and attribute no self-disclosure as usual routine to their personality trait or habit. Besides, the interview study also finds that participants generate new meanings of self-disclosure from interaction in the online support group. Some of the participants engage in self-disclosure in the online support group as a way of building a community for people living with depression. Some other participants, although see self-disclosure as a manner of gaining support, consider social support offered by other group members as reaction to self-disclosure not substantial or even to impede recovery from depression. Self-disclosure also initiates relationships with other group members. However, the participants consider such relationships as superficial and are pessimistic about the future development of the relationships. Findings from these two studies are discussed in regard to the intrapersonal communication and interpersonal communication of self-disclosure in online support groups for people living with depression. Overall the findings suggest a theoretical framework to study self-disclosure in online support groups, emphasizing that self-disclosure is an ongoing and dialectical communication process.
Appears in Collections:Master's Theses (Open)

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