The Impact of an Online Facebook Support Group for Multiple Sclerosis Sufferers on Non-active Users
C. Pretorius1, J. Steadman1
1Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Background: This study aimed to explore the experiences of non-active users of an online Facebook support group for multiple sclerosis (MS). Emphasis was placed on the resources and the challenges that were associated with membership to this group. Method: A qualitative design was implemented in this study, whereby thematic analysis was utilized to examine the semi-structured interviews that were conducted with ten non-active members of the support group. Findings: Several resources were acquired through the online support group; namely knowledge, advice, empowerment, empathy, mental assistance and group reassurance. Several challenges also emerged; namely concern for quality of information, excessive posting, negative aspects of the disease and lack of responses. Discussion: This study demonstrates that the online support group is a vital source of resources for individuals with MS; however, these individuals also face several challenges, which could possibly be attributed to their non-active status and/or physical limitations. These findings will hopefully result in the modification of such forms of support to better accommodate the needs of their members.