Examining Social Support Seeking Online

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Virginia Tech


Research across healthcare and organizational settings demonstrates the importance of social support to increase physical and mental well-being. However, the process of seeking social support is less well-understood than its outcomes. Specifically, research examining how people seek social support in natural settings is scarce. One natural setting increasingly used by people to seek support is the internet. In this online setting, people seek and provide social support verbally via social media platforms and messages. The present project seeks to further examine the nature of social support seeking in these online contexts by examining people’s language. This analysis includes discovering the common language features of social support seeking. By applying a data-driven content analysis approach, this research can examine the underlying themes present when seeking social support and build upon that insight to classify new instances of support seeking. These results would have important practical implications for occupational health. By identifying individuals who are seeking social support, future interventions will be able to take a more targeted approach in lending additional support to those individuals who have the greatest need. Subsequently, this application potentially provides the mental and physical health benefits of social support. Therefore, this research extends our knowledge of both the nature of support seeking and how to develop effective interventions.



Social Support, Online, Text Analysis, Machine learning