Title: Patients' learning in cyberspace: a thematic analysis of patient-patient discussions in a chronic illness Facebook page

Authors: Gemma Stevens; Victoria L. O'Donnell; Lynn Williams

Addresses: School of Applied Social Studies, Robert Gordon University, Scotland, UK ' Research Development & Academic Enhancement, Laureate Online Education, Amsterdam, The Netherlands ' School of Psychological Sciences & Health, University of Strathclyde, Scotland, UK

Abstract: Online support groups play an increasingly important role in patients' lived experience of chronic illness. The objective of this study was to explore how learning takes place from patients' interactions in an online chronic illness support group. Qualitative data consisted of 1,478 messages posted to a publicly accessible non-illness specific Facebook support page. Data was analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Four themes were identified from the analysis. This paper presents two themes, information sharing and dis(trust). Employing Wenger's communities of practice theoretical framework (Wenger, 1998), themes are discussed in terms of learning, participation in practices and identity. Online support groups can be pivotal to learning in illness. Patients' online information sharing provides them with opportunities for informal learning about their condition to take place. These online interactions lead to patients developing trust for one another and distrust for the medical care system.

Keywords: patient interactions; illness community; chronic illness; online support groups; communities of practice; learning.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2018.096253

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2018 Vol.14 No.4, pp.417 - 431

Received: 06 Aug 2017
Accepted: 26 Jun 2018

Published online: 13 Nov 2018 *

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