Study Online suport groups: lurkers and posters

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by tansy, Jul 31, 2008.

  1. tansy

    tansy New Member

    Self-reported differences in empowerment between lurkers and posters
    in online patient support groups.

    J Med Internet Res. 2008 Jun 30;10(2):e18.

    van Uden-Kraan CF, Drossaert CH, Taal E, Seydel ER, van de Laar MA.

    Institute for Behavioural Research, University of Twente, PO Box 217,
    7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands.

    PMID: 18653442

    BACKGROUND: Patients who visit online support groups benefit in
    various ways. Results of our earlier study indicated that
    participation in online support groups had a profound effect on the
    participants' feelings of "being empowered." However, most studies of
    online patient support groups have focused on the members of these
    groups who actively contribute by sending postings (posters). Thus
    far, little is known about the impact for "lurkers" (ie, those who do
    not actively participate by sending postings).

    OBJECTIVE: In the present study, we explored if lurkers in online
    patient support groups profit to the same extent as posters do.

    METHODS: We searched the Internet with the search engine Google to
    identify all Dutch online support groups for patients with breast
    cancer, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. Invitations to complete an
    online survey were sent out by the owners of 19 groups. In the online
    questionnaire, we asked questions about demographic and health
    characteristics, use of and satisfaction with the online support
    group, empowering processes, and empowering outcomes. The online
    questionnaire was completed by 528 individuals, of which 109 (21%)
    identified themselves as lurkers.

    RESULTS: Lurkers (mean age 47 years) were slightly older than active
    participants (mean age 43 years, P = .002), had a shorter disease
    history (time since diagnosis 3.7 years vs 5.4 years, P = .001), and
    reported lower mental well-being (SF 12 subscore 37.7 vs 40.5, P =
    .004). No significant differences were found in other demographic

    Posters indicated visiting the online support groups
    significantly more often for social reasons, such as curiosity about
    how other members were doing, to enjoy themselves, as a part of their
    daily routine (all P < .001), and because other members expected them
    to be there (P = .003).

    Lurkers and posters did not differ in their
    information-related reasons for visiting the online support group. Lurkers were significantly less satisfied with the online support
    group compared to posters (P < .001).

    With regard to empowering
    processes such as "exchanging information" and "finding recognition,"
    lurkers scored significantly lower than posters. However, lurkers did
    not differ significantly from posters with regard to most empowering
    outcomes, such as "being better informed," "feeling more confident in
    the relationship with their physician," "improved acceptance of the
    disease," "feeling more confident about the treatment," "enhanced
    self-esteem," and "increased optimism and control." The exception was
    "enhanced social well-being," which scored significantly lower for
    lurkers compared to posters (P < .001).

    CONCLUSION: Our study revealed that participation in an online
    support group had the same profound effect on lurkers' self-reported
    feelings of being empowered in several areas as it had on posters.

    Apparently, reading in itself is sufficient to profit from
    participation in an online patient support group.
  2. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    I think you are right. These kinds of things happen on most internet boards.

    I am doing some research of my own of the dynamics of internet boards. It is fascinating.

    Take care.

    [This Message was Edited on 08/02/2008]
  3. Gingareeree

    Gingareeree New Member

    How someone who is a "lurker" can be considered a troublemaker?
  4. Gingareeree

    Gingareeree New Member

    Thanks for the clarification.
  5. jasminetee

    jasminetee Member

    Thanks for posting this, it's cool that they did this study. They came to the conclusion I figured they would.

    A lot of times I come here thinking about posting about some problem but whatever the subject matter is, there's almost always already a thread on it started by someone else, usually on the first page. It makes me feel better immediately just to read it and then join in.

    I'm so glad we're all able to meet here every day. This place saves my sanity and you all are a great support. :)

    [This Message was Edited on 08/20/2008]
  6. findmind

    findmind New Member you ever find these studies, I'll never figure out, but you are surely one of the best research reporters on this board!

    I never lurked, just jumped right in with mouth and foot, LOL!

    I couldn't go to sleep at night if I didn't check the Board first, ...but then, who sleeps?

    Just kidding, I sleep pretty well with my meds.

    The lurkers who actually have one of these dd.s probably learn a lot here, and I would bet money that eventually, they jump right in, too!

    Thanks again, dear person...
  7. waltz

    waltz New Member

    I think of lurkers as people you do not know are there. That is why it's called lurking. For example, in the blog world, a lurker's first comment is called delurking. After one has delurked, one is usually no longer a lurker. It's more akin to being shy and quiet and has no relation to troublemaking. It's impossible to know how many lurkers are out there unless you are the site owner with access to tracking statistics and IP logging.

    People who cause trouble and flame are trolls no matter how much or little they post.

    That is my working definition from being fairly active in the Internet and computer world.

    I actually don't post that much here. I usually post with specific information needs or answers.

    For the more social stuff, I actually prefer to do that on other message boards. For me personally, I find that I feel better emotionally to socialize with people who are not sick.
  8. 3sa

    3sa New Member

    My name is Theresa and I am a lurker. :) I learn a lot more by reading and keeping my mouth shut. Honestly I rarely have much to say. I do check in daily. It helps to know I'm not alone.
  9. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    I think it would be very inappropriate to label people based on what they write as we do not know what is going on with the person other than what they post on the board.

    It would be pure speculation.

    I am more interested in how boards are structured, their subject matter and how these factors along with many others may determine what kind of audience that is attracted to these boards.

    More the sociological than psychological aspects of a board. Focusing on the group dynamics verses the personalities.

    Take care.
    [This Message was Edited on 08/02/2008]
  10. tansy

    tansy New Member

    The benefits from participation in on line support groups have already been confirmed through other studies. What I felt was important about this one was that it demonstrates one does not have to be a contributor to become empowered and informed.

    Personally I feel lurker is a somewhat unfortunate name for those who opt just to read.

    Hi Findmind

    Well if it had not been for others posting research, info, and theories here, and on other similar, message boards, I would not have felt sufficiently empowered and informed to make some of the choices I have.

    So having been helped personally, and in my advocacy, by having access to the info I needed; I feel it is important to provide this access to research etc to everyone.

    tc, Tansy

    ps Findmind I answered some of your posts putting your name in the title. No need to reply to them though; just thought I'd let you know they were there.
    [This Message was Edited on 08/02/2008]
  11. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    I agree about the name. Maybe "reader" would be better?

    Glad someone posted who made the point that some people are not feeling well enough to post or do not have typing skills. I think it is important to keep this in mind.

    Good post.

  12. tansy

    tansy New Member

    Reader would be a much nicer, and more accurate, name. We cannot change the use of Lurker on the Internet but perhaps we could adopt the term Reader here.

    tc, Tansy
  13. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    I second the motion!!!

  14. SpecialK82

    SpecialK82 New Member

    Thanks for the research tansy!

    I agree that many people probably read becuase they do not have the energy to post/reply or because they don't feel like they have anything to add.