I chose to study support groups under the Internet Users and Audiences category for my practicum project. At first I was wondering how I can find these support groups on the internet as I expect most of them are for specific illnesses and are generally taken part in a real setting with discussions and seminars. Also I was a little worry since I don’t experience a specific illness and it might not be ok for me to immerse in those groups. So I googled ‘online support groups’ and I was amazed in the numbers of results that came out. I picked three of them among the numerous sites and started observing these sites. I went to supportgroups.com and found that there are actually a variety of options of things that you want to get support from the community. You can choose whatever that fits your needs and start getting feedbacks from the other users. On top of all the physical and mental illnesses, the site also includes groups for healthy eating, dads, mums, college, jealousy, caffeine and a lot more about challenges that we come across in our lives. After having a rough look of nearly 200 group options, I signed up for a new account and was given a three-step instruction of filling out my profile information, uploading a profile picture and joining a support group. I joined the groups for ‘caffeine’ and ‘healthy eating’ and trying to find out how these groups work. These groups work by frequent updates from different users on the specific support topic and much engagement in the discussion section so as to gain understanding of the challenges that they are facing. People can also type their journal and update their status to gain support from their ‘support friends’.
After understanding the site, I went to DailyStrength to see if they got a similar atmosphere. As what I expected, they have so many group options for users to select and they have even more non-illnesses support groups like time management, Health Care Reform and shingles. For the second time I looked at these options, I feel like anyone can join this community since there is at least one option that any individual can be related to. It is very user-friendly and quite appealing to users. Similar to supportgroups.com, I was asked to fill in my profile information as much as I can and join some groups. So I joined the Healthy Eating group and observe how the users interact. Once I log into the site, like any other social networking sites, I can write my own journal and update my status and you can look at the updates of your friends from the group. You can also choose your own smileys to represent your mood of the day and let your friends know about it. I feel like these online support groups work like a very friendly area for people facing common challenges or thoughts group together and share their knowledge with one another. Through participating in the community, they can actually get better and gain inspirations in life.