ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL Gohil 1 ENDOMETRIOSIS AND 2013-02-26آ  ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL...

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  • ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL Gohil 1

    ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL: HOW WOMEN USE

    SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HEALTH COMMUNICATION

    ____________________________________

    A Thesis

    Presented to the Faculty in Communication and Leadership Studies

    School of Professional Studies

    Gonzaga University

    ____________________________________

    Under the Supervision of Dr. Carolyn Cunningham

    Under the Mentorship of Dr. Heather Crandall

    ____________________________________

    In Partial Fulfillment

    Of the Requirements for the Degree

    Master of Arts in Communication and Leadership Studies

    ____________________________________

    By

    Beena Gohil

    December 2012

  • ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL Gohil 2

    Abstract

    This thesis examined how women who have or are affected by endometriosis use the

    social blogging site LiveJournal as a means of communicating about the disorder, and what

    gratifications they received in the process. The philosophical framework for this study stemmed

    from Martin Buber’s (1923/1958) work on “dialogic ethics.” The theory that grounded this study

    is a version of Uses and Gratifications theory that has been expanded so that it is applicable to

    social media. The data was gathered as part of a content analysis study in which blog posts and

    their comments were collected, coded, and analyzed. The results show that women use

    LiveJournal to fulfill one or more of the following communication needs: cognitive, personal

    integrative, affective, and social integrative. The results additionally showed that depending on

    the blog post content and responses received, the gratifications found to occur were:

    acknowledgment, advice, information, empathy, well wishes, emotional support, validation, the

    benefit of a different perspective, catharsis, conversation, sympathy, and appreciation. These

    findings will serve to further communication studies in regards to social blogging, particularly

    health communication on social media platforms.

  • ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL Gohil 3

    Signature Page

  • ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL Gohil 4

    Table of Contents

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  • ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL Gohil 5

    Chapter 1 – Introduction

    Importance of the Study

    In recent years, online social media has greatly altered the way in which people

    communicate in general, and that is no different within the area of health communication. With

    modern technology making it easy and convenient to establish blogging communities and other

    places online for discussion about important issues, individuals have turned to social media as a

    forum for health communication. Today there are Twitter accounts, Facebook campaigns, and

    even a LiveJournal community all dedicated to providing information and assistance to women

    who have or are affected by endometriosis. While it is true that many of these social media

    accounts are run by medical professionals or endometriosis-focused organizations, others are run

    by everyday women.

    In the area of online health communication, social media has had a great impact on the

    purpose and means through which such communication occurs; there have even been studies

    conducted to see how social media can be used to form a social support group for those suffering

    from specific chronic illnesses (Finlayson & Cho, 2011; Hwang, Ottenbacker, Lucke,

    Etchegaray, Graham, & Thomas, 2011; Nicholas, Picone, Vigneux, McCormick, Mantulak,

    McClure, & MacCulloch, 2009). However, no one has conducted a study of the content already

    present on an established communication forum. Additionally, there has been no research

    conducted specifically on how women with endometriosis use social media as a means of online

    health communication. It is important to understand how they are using it because endometriosis

    is a condition that is difficult to understand despite its prevalence—it is a gynecological disorder

    that is known to affect at least one in ten women. The condition is often very difficult to

    diagnose—it does not follow a fixed pattern of progression—and as a result it is entirely possible

  • ENDOMETRIOSIS AND LIVEJOURNAL Gohil 6

    that it is even more common than the medical community believes it to be (Ballweg, 1995; Shah,

    Moravek, Vahratian, Dalton, & Lebovic, 2010).

    Statement of the Problem

    Since many professional health care providers are hesitant to give advice about

    endometriosis knowing that it varies greatly on a case-by-case basis, women who are affected by

    the disease are taking matters into their own hands and communicating about endometriosis

    among one another—often without professional health care providers. By examining the ways in

    which women use social media to communicate about endometriosis, a better understanding of

    both the health condition and the functions of health communication online can be achieved.

    Definition of Terms Used

    Key terms used in this study include health communication, endometriosis, social media,

    and social blogging. Below are brief definitions of each of the above terms.

    Health Communication: A means of sharing, discussing, processing, and understanding health-

    related information with the goals of informing, aiding, and interacting with other individuals.

    Endometriosis: A gynecological disorder that is believed to affect nearly one in ten women; the

    condition varies greatly from case to case in symptoms, severity, and progression.

    Social Media: Provides a platform for users to create and share user-generated content and

    communicate about the content if they choose to do so.

    Social Blogging: A subsection of social media that involves the process of creating and sharing

    blog po