Identifying and feeling supported in a self-help group : comparing face-to face and online videoconference meetings

Murphy, Melissa Lynne
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This exploratory study investigated the differences between traditional 12 step meetings and online 12 step videoconferencing meetings in a recovery-based social networking site (SNS). Drawing from a social support framework and the social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE), I conducted an online survey (N = 97) measuring perceptions of effectiveness, small group and relational satisfaction, identification, social support and network quality, anonymity, and access for both traditional and online videoconferencing meetings. In addition, an index was created to assess online community members’ level of engagement within the SNS. Findings reveal that (a) traditional 12 step meetings rank significantly higher on perceptions of social support quality and recovery network quality, as well as overall meeting effectiveness, and small group and relational satisfaction, (b) members’ perceptions of small group and relational satisfaction, social support and network quality are significant predictors of identification within a 12 step group, and lastly (c) members’ level of engagement within the SNS is strongly correlated with a number of positive outcomes suggesting that the more engaged a member is with various features within the SNS, the more social support and recovery benefits a member perceives. In sum, this study advances practical understanding of the role SNS and online videoconferencing meetings have in shaping the experiences of members in recovery. The usefulness of this study for online social support researchers as well as suggestions for future research are discussed.