Patterns of support in an online community for smoking cessation
Social support offers various benefits for health and behaviour change. However, previous work has shown that individuals are typically reluctant to ask for support on social network sites, unless they can present a changed, healthier identity. To examine the relationship between stage of change and social support we conducted a thematic analysis of messages posted in a public Facebook support group for people trying to quit smoking. Our findings show that the kind of support exchanged online is related to participants' stage of change. Contrary to our expectations, supportive responses and leadership in the support group came mainly from users who just started their change process rather than people who had already changed. We discuss contributions to theories of online participation and impression management as well as implications for practitioners who seek to establish support groups.