An examination of “digital coping” involving the use of communication technologies, particularly social media, in responding to illness.
Communication technologies have become a valuable resource for responding to the profound challenges posed by illness. Medical websites make it possible to find information about specific health conditions, e-mail provides a means to communicate with health care providers, social network sites can be used to solidify existing relationships, online communities provide opportunities for expanding support networks, and blogs offer a forum for articulating illness-related experiences. In this book, Stephen Rains examines this kind of “digital coping” involving the use of communication technologies, particularly social media, in responding to illness. Synthesizing a diverse body of existing empirical research, Rains offers the first book-length exploration of what it means to cope with illness digitally.
Rains examines the implications of digital communication technologies on a series of specific challenges raised by illness and discusses the unique affordances of these technologies as coping resources. He considers patients' motivations for forging relationships online and the structure of those networks; the exchange of social support and the outcomes of sharing illness experiences; online health information searches by patients and surrogates; the effects of Internet use on patient-provider communication; and digital coping mechanisms for end-of-life and bereavement, including telehospice, social media memorials, and online grief support. Finally, Rains presents an original model of digital coping that builds on issues discussed to summarize how and with what effects patients use communication technologies to cope with illness.
Stephen A. Rains is Professor of Communication at the University of Arizona, where he also holds appointments in the Department of Psychology and the Arizona Cancer Center.