Article

Social Support and Unsolicited Advice in a Bipolar Disorder Online Forum

Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain.
Qualitative Health Research (Impact Factor: 2.19). 08/2009; 19(7):931-42. DOI: 10.1177/1049732309338952
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT How does a newly diagnosed user get inducted into a forum dedicated to people suffering from bipolar disorder? Is their opening message "matched" by the forum's reply? We add to the literature on social support online by using conversation analysis (CA) to explore an apparent contradiction between a new user's first post and forum members' replies with ostensibly unsolicited advice. CA reveals the intimate relation between turns in sequence, an aspect of online communication largely ignored in existing work on social support. Seen from this perspective, giving unsolicited advice, although apparently a "mismatch," turns out to be a consequence of the open design of the new user's initial posting. We speculate that such unsolicited advice might function at the ideological level to induct the new user into the mores of the group, not only in the kind of support it countenances giving, but into the very meaning of bipolarity itself.

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