The Social Media Family

The research explores the question “How does the increased use of social media platforms construct a structured online support group for the users?”
5 augustus 2022 | 14 minuten lezen

Social media is one of the wonders of the contemporary era. It provides a way for many people to connect as well as informs about the news on current affairs. Moreover, it has presented a marketing opportunity for many companies and organizations, thus making billions in dollars for its shareholders. However, one question that keeps on arising is the effect the social media has on the support of people who use such platforms, including individuals who want to browse the social media anonymously. A review of the materials shows that the use of the social media platform can construct a structured support group for online users.

The research written by explores the question “How does the increased use of social media platforms construct a structured online support group for the users?”

The hypotheses from the research question are:

1. The structure of social media, which is meant to attract as many people as possible, ensures that there is enough support for online users.

2. The ubiquitous computing environment of social media provides an environment for the users to connect at their convenient time to get support and offer assistance to others.

3. Social media provides a platform for the people who have common interests and those who suffer from similar problems.

Review of Literature

The structure of social media, which is meant to attract as many people as possible, ensures that there is enough support for online users

Social media is meant to maximize the number of users to get more advertising revenues. In this regard, Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) note that in January 2009, Facebook registered more than 175 million users in a single month. It is worth to note that this was almost the population of Brazil, which is one hundred and ninety million, and more than double the population of Germany, which stands at eighty million people. In this way, if it was a country, the population of Facebook got a significant boost. Moreover, the authors further note that the growth in social media usage is no longer just among the young generation but also among the members of Generation X (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Nowadays, such platforms operate as a physical organization that attracts more members based on the existing quantities of users, and in this way, Facebook attracts a diversity of people with various interests who can support each other in diverse ways. The most apparent example is the Facebook groups that are formed by people who experience the same problems or have the same interests.

Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy, and Silvestre (2011) build upon the idea of social media as a physical place that increases users by noting that there are seven practical structural blocks for social media. All the seven structural blocks focus on people who can meet, share, and discuss ideas on these platforms. Kietzmann et al. (2011) note the structural blocks as identity online, conversations, sharing of material online, presence of people online, relationships that are building online, reputation one gains online, as well as groups that one forms online. The groups coupled with the other building blocks, such as interests, can form the basis of support forums for people with similar interests.

Moreover, Dawot and Ibrahim (2014) note that social media came about as a result of the revolutionizing of social networks in an online sphere. The development of social media has enabled people to interrelate on numerous platforms. Previously, while communication was face to face or by the means of letters, the proliferation of social media has enabled the users of the platforms to communicate with a large number of people as well interact with others on a personal basis. For instance, Facebook accounts for 51% of internet users in the world (Dawot & Ibrahim, 2014). The social media platforms seem to have the same features that assist people in their use and increase the online interaction among them (Dawot & Ibrahim, 2014). The first is the creation of user profiles. The second one is the use of online as opposed to physical connections. The third is the use of groups within social media. The fourth one is the use of online connection lists that enable the users to connect and interact with other members. Fifth, the content is user created. Sixth, a person is able to share opinion by the means of the features the social media provides. The seventh feature is that social media also offers a connection to knowledge and information. Lastly, it is a feature of the social media companies that consider users ones that generate revenues (Dawot & Ibrahim, 2014). In this way, social media business model depends on a large number of people who have something in common while interacting and supporting each other.

It is important to note that while most of the social media is inclusive, as it leaves little scope for anonymous users, others are more structured, and thus, it might present better opportunities for better online support for anonymous users. Papacharissi (2009) engaged in a study of three social media sites: Facebook that anyone can join, the professionally oriented LinkedIn, and ASmallWorld, which is an exclusive social media site. The underlying structure of the sites means that the three of them have different issues as their practices are concerned. For instance, on Facebook, there are looser behavioral norms driven by its open platform and fewer regulations (Papacharissi, 2009). It led to a situation where it was possible to use the means to leave cues to the other people with whom one interacts within the social media. LinkedIn and ASmallWorld, on the other hand, have smaller tighter spaces in relation to the creation and sharing of content (Papacharissi, 2009). The tighter spaces are consistent with the taste ethos of the networks, and consequently, there is less possibility of interaction that is extemporaneous in the case of Facebook (Papacharissi, 2009). Consequently, Facebook has a structure that is meant to attract as many people as possible for the purposes of communication. In the continuing interaction and communication, it is possible for people who have not even met to offer support to other individuals. On Facebook, this comes by the means of sharing of common interests, on LinkedIn, it is performed via the sharing of common career and professional interests, while on ASmallWorld, it is made by the means of the exclusive interaction it offers.

In the same vein Kane, Alavi, Labianca, and Borgatti (2014) suggest that the increasing adoption of social media networks continues to influence and increases the impact of social media on society at large. The organizational influence of social media cannot be understated. Social media not only affects the common person but also has a large influence on the organizations due to the way it is structured (Kane et al., 2014). Social media has a structure that means that at any particular time, it is trying to maximize the number of people who use the site. Consequently, social media not only joins people for connection and interaction purposes but also makes organizations part of the conversation due to the marketing as well as organizational and communicative factors that these platforms provide. In many ways, this makes the use of information technology services for the companies much easier considering that in previous decades, the information technology was so expensive that only the largest of organizations and governments effectively deployed it. The rise of social media reduces the burden on the companies to integrate IT in their work, as social media provides an easier path for IT integration. In this way, social media, especially Facebook, draws in a large number of people and offers them the chance to support each other in various endeavors in both personal and professional life.

All in all, the current mechanism as well as structure of social media allow the organizations to attract more followers to promote their products, thus gaining the revenues. On the other hand, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn provide the internet users with enough support and assistance that they need, hence building strong connections as well as ties among people, which results in the interconnection of the world.

The ubiquitous computing environment of social media provides an environment for the users to connect at their convenient time to get support and offer assistance to others

Social media provides a way for people to connect at their own time and end the interaction whenever they want. The social media connectedness depends on the time. Pempek, Yermolayeva, and Calvert (2009) explain that millions of contemporary adults spend a significant amount of time on social media. More significantly, the research shows that people are able to connect and disconnect from social media when they want to do so (Pempek et al., 2009). On average, the college student spends thirty minutes on Facebook while watching something there but not creating the content. Consequently, since Facebook does not show the person who browsed over other individual’s posts, this means that one is able to see the various posts anonymously. Consequently, Facebook provides a platform where college students can look at other content in an anonymous manner and support each other apart from expressing themselves by posting content and reacting to content already posted.

However, social media and internet can get repetitive to the point of continuous status updates every few hours. Conroy and Williams (2014) explain that since 2006, microblogging has dropped among teens and young adults. It was transformed into the form of social media status updates. The authors note that blogging, commenting, and reading friends’ blogs also decreased. The use of social media is also much more prevalent than blogging was in the days before the social media revolution. Social media became more prevalent among teens, with almost two-thirds of them getting their news from social media. The adults are more likely to use social media as a tool for observing political news. It is notable that the usage did not vary according to gender (Conroy & Williams, 2014). However, Conroy and Williams (2014) note that the prevalence and usage of social media can be addictive, thus contradicting with Pempek et al. (2009) who indicate that people can easily stop using social media whenever they need. In this manner, they can discuss the issues of news with other teens as well as delve into support groups on various political issues that affect them.

Social media has grown as a central part of leisure over the last decade. It is of importance to note that the use of social media is not problematic among many people. However, a small number of individuals uses social media in a compulsive and excessive way (Andreassen, Pallesen, & Griffiths, 2017). Social media addiction is a condition when the people cannot live without using social media platforms. The need to use social media in a compulsive manner is an attempt to inhibit a negative self-image. Moreover, the women are more likely to develop addictions. Consequently, for the addicted, social media becomes a platform not just for communication, but such person become obsessed by it. In this manner, it becomes clear that while social media is dubious, it becomes hard for the addicted people to connect at their convenient time, as they cannot control the time they spend there. In this way, rather than being communicative, such people tend to be self-absorbed while exhibiting narcissism and having low self-esteem. For such individuals, social media becomes not a point of support but a point of incisive interaction with the opinion of other persons as well as the display of oneself to the rest of the world.

Social media is omnipresent in many peoples’ lives. According to the research on the abstinence from social media, it leads to boredom and social pressure to go back and use the social media that one had stopped (Stieger & Lewetz, 2018). Nowadays, there is a social pressure to be on social media when one was abstaining from it. It may lead to relapses to the use of the social media. The research points that rather than just the downsides of social media, it also has the advantages. The conventional wisdom has been that the use of social media is a harmful habit. The research contradicts that stance. In doing so, it reaffirms the findings of Pempek et al. (2009) who noted that college students could control their usage of social media in a way that they would end up spending only an average of thirty minutes on Facebook a day to follow other posts silently. The lack of engagement in this activity can also consequently have its disadvantages, as for many people now, the social media forms part of their daily support structure.

One has to note that the ubiquity of social media is a theme that has transcended not only on social relations but also on the governance sphere. The citizens are now able to engage continually with the government over a myriad of issues, thus creating what Zavattaro and Sementelli (2014) has termed as “omnipresent social media”. The authors give an example of the petition to the White House by J.D Longmont who asked the government to create the Death Star by 2016 (Zavattaro & Sementelli, 2014). The petition gained enough attention and online signatures to have the government reply. One has to consider that the petition was seen as a bit bizarre considering that the Death Star is a concept from the Star Wars movie franchise (Zavattaro & Sementelli, 2014). While it appeared bizarre, it also showed an example of how the public can come together to participate in the governance of their country due to the creation of social media tool that has made the government much easier to access for the citizens and vice versa. The situation has been termed as the “omnipresent government and the omnipresent citizen” (Zavattaro & Sementelli, 2014). Consequently, social media has allowed many people not only to organize but also support each other regarding the issues they feel the government should address by providing an inexpensive communication mechanism to organize and send their claims (Zavattaro & Sementelli, 2014). It has made interaction with governance structures easier.

All in all, it is evident that social media offered numerous mechanisms that allow not only to affect the implementation of some decisions on the governmental level but also express own position, thus gaining more followers. Apart from that, social media offers a possibility to assist some people who need support and require some help. Therefore, such platforms can easily be considered a place where one can solve own issues, get assistance, as well as raise some important concerns.

Social media provides a platform for the people who have common interests and those who suffer from similar problems

The social media platform is a place where many people meet, communicate, as well as exchange ideas. The platform allows to interact in a polite and humane manner. Goolsby (2010) notes that social media provides a means for creating new communities and reenergizing the previously made ones. For instance, people are able to organize and meet their old schoolmates by the means of the use of Facebook social tools, thus creating groups that they can use for interactions as well as exchange of ideas. However, of more importance to this research is that fact that the social media, particularly Facebook, offers a myriad of ways in which one can communicate and interact with new people on the platforms. The research by Goolsby (2010) points out to the fact that there is a potential for the development of a community that is not only spontaneous but can also react to disasters all over the world through the support of crowdsourcing approaches. For instance, in the case of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008, the users of Twitter used that platform to give information, request for help, and search for people who required immediate support (Goolsby, 2010). Goolsby (2010) notes that there was also the documentation of the crises. Consequently, an ad-hoc community was formed, and it was able to react to the issues at hand in a way that was not possible before social media (Goolsby, 2010). Twitter users did not know each other, thus demonstrating the potential of social media to act as a conduit for support of strangers people meet online.

The question is further how social media has integrated into its platforms the various ways in which people can assist others in times of emergency and national disasters. Simon, Goldberg, & Adini (2015) state that social media has been integrated into the human beings’ lives. By the means of social tools, people assist in the communication, discussion, and integration of ideas. Simon et al. (2015) further note that this was the primary aim of social media. However, social media has now inbuilt platforms that have made the response to crises much easier. In this way, people are able to even assist other persons they do not know, but it makes it much easier for authorities to respond to emergencies in times of crises. It is also important to note that the post-disaster public participation has also increased (Simon et al., 2015). It results in the indirect benefit of the increasing the response by both the strangers trying to assist others and authorities expending their public duty due to the possible praise or blame that can come out of such discussions.

Apart from that, social media has developed tools that are meant to assist in response to the issues that people experience. The support can be generated by the strangers who have never met or by other people who are only acquainted with each other via social media (Naslund, Aschbrenner, Marsch, & Bartels, 2016). In the case of depression, social media offers the tools that one can use for a peer-to-peer support system for those who suffer from depression. The sharing of illness experiences on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other forms of social media has assisted in destigmatizing mental illness (Naslund et al., 2016). In this way, social media offers a platform through which the strangers can meet and support each other in relation to mental illnesses.

The social media platforms also offer the chance for professional growth through the inbuilt mechanisms for support of not only people one has met but also the strangers. In the case of nurses, Moorley and Chinn (2014) note that there are inbuilt mechanisms on the platform that enable one to share information on their careers. In case of Twitter, the authors note that it is now regularly used for professional conversation (Moorley & Chinn, 2014). It is more notable when one considers that Twitter has no privacy settings, and thus, a single tweet by a health professional can be seen by an innumerable number of people in the same field (Moorley & Chinn, 2014). On Twitter, continuous professional development has been possible due to the use of hashtags and nursing handles such as the @WeNurses (Moorley & Chinn, 2014). Twitter handles and hashtags are part of the central platform (Moorley & Chinn, 2014). Since the tweets are visible by everyone, they support people in various parts of the world who are strangers to each other.

Lastly, support for others within the social media platforms has extended beyond disasters relief and professional development to the issue of suicide prevention. Robinson et al. (2015) are of the opinion that social media has been routinely used to express suicidal thoughts by young people, but it has also served as an effective support tool for those suffering from suicidal thoughts. Robinson et al. (2015) suggest that social media can reach a large number of people who suffer from suicidal ideation owing to the way how the social media platforms are built. Some of these individuals are hard to engage, and social media might be the only way for them to be dissuaded from suicide. Social media for such people provides an anonymous, accessible, and non-judgmental place where they can get support and share experiences for the hard-to-engage individuals (Robinson et al., 2015). In this manner, Robinson et al. (2015) note that social media platforms hold a big potential in the prevention of suicide of the many people who feel they cannot talk with anyone on a face to face basis and those who hold little trust in others.

In this way, it is obvious that nowadays, the social media has enlarged its practicability and is even used for the purposes that it was not initially intended for. Crisis management, mental support, as well as assistance in hard situation among others are just few examples of the ways how modern human beings use Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.


All in all, a review of the materials shows that social media can provide a structured online support for online users all over the world. One can see this in several ways. In the first place, social media is akin to a physical organization where people can join for support in various issues. Secondly, social media also provides an omnipresent computing atmosphere for the users to connect at their convenient time and get support on various issues, such as careers, petitioning the government on various issues, as well as participation in governance. Lastly, social media also presents a platform through which people can ask for and receive support, such as in times of crises as well as during their career development. It can also be used as a suicide prevention measure that offers support to the individuals who are at risk but are unable or unwilling to talk or trust anyone face to face. In this way, social media offers numerous benefits to modern people; however, the individuals should not forget that they also have a real life that requires their attention.



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