Social Media for Health

Collaborator: Dr. Caroline Haythornthwaite, UBC

Abstract: This paper reviews research on online community, with particular attention to how communities start and are maintained online. The nature of community in an online context is discussed, as well as the different kinds of communal forms that can be created and sustained online, and the different motivations that support participation in these collectives. The review also considers the kinds of data that can be readily compiled from online communities as a way of understanding their operation, identifying key constituents, and following topic threads. The case of an online community interested in social media and health in Canada is discussed as a demonstration of the kinds of analyses that are possible from such data. Of particular interest from analyses of such data is understanding of how interactions provide individuals with exposure to new information, support learning and adoption of new knowledge or practices, and maintain participation in the community. Where online communities are established to support behaviour change, a major question is how such online interaction maps to offline behaviour. To address this, the paper concludes with some discussion of online/offline synergies, and suggested directions for investigating how online interaction supports offline behaviours relating to health and well-being.

[important]As part of this research we are conducting a case study of the #hcsmca (Health Care Social Media Canada) community. Below are some of the graphs from the sample Twitter dataset that we are examining for this project collected using Netlytic from Nov. 12 to Dec. 13, 2012.[/important]


  • § Gruzd, A., Haythornthwaite, C. (2013). Enabling Community Through Social Media. Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) 15 (10): e248. DOI:10.2196/jmir.2796

Related Research:

  • § Gruzd, A., Black, F.A., Le, Y., Amos, K. (2012). Investigating Biomedical Research Literature in the Blogosphere: A Case Study of Diabetes and HbA1c. Journal of the Medical Library Association 100(1). DOI: 10.3163/1536-5050.100.1.007