Living with and beyond breast cancer : exploring women’s use of social media to support psychosocial health

Ure, CM ORCID: 2018, Living with and beyond breast cancer : exploring women’s use of social media to support psychosocial health , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

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Despite the extensive use of social media, its role in supporting women living with and beyond breast cancer (LwBBC), across the survivorship trajectory, remains underexplored. Existing research has tended to focus on single or dual platform use and utilised secondary data, principally from Facebook and Twitter. In contrast, this study sought to ensure women’s experiences of use took centre stage by adopting a qualitative approach to explore social media use across the survivorship trajectory.
The aims of this thesis were to: a) explore how women LwBBC use social media; b) examine how women use social media as communicative resources in relation to LwBBC; and c) make sense of how women use social media to support their psychosocial health.
Twenty-one women (age range 27-64) participated in semi-structured interviews. Twelve participated in a photo-elicitation study using pre-existing photographs to explore social support. Nine participated in a photo-production study in which they took photographs (n=157) to represent how they communicate their experiences of LwBBC to others. A bricolaged approach to data analysis using thematic, polytextual and voice centred methodological approaches ensured women’s voices were brought to the fore within the analysis process.
Social media use is integral to many, but not all, women’s daily lives and considered by women an appropriate space to explore their own experiences. Women describe using multiple social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and WhatsApp concurrently. The use of multiple platforms simultaneously to satisfy psychosocial needs demonstrates use to be more fluid and dynamic than the current literature suggests. Through listening to women’s voices, and using photographs to visualise voices, three key themes came to the fore: (i) finding relevant, timely and appropriate support; (ii) navigating disrupted identities; and (iii) (re)gaining a sense of control. Analysis shows these themes to be entangled, interconnected, and dynamic with women’s use shifting across time. Women describe social media use as both empowering but also as dislocating.
This is the first in depth qualitative study that takes an overview of women’s engagement across social media platforms to support their experiences of LwBBC. It demonstrates significant digital labour by women through use of social media to support their physical, emotional, and (anti) social experiences of LwBBC. It indicates naturally occurring networked communities as important contributors to the ongoing psychosocial support women need at different stages of LwBBC. Social media enables women to (re) gain a sense of control and can reduce need to draw on health service provision. Knowledge of women’s use can provide insight and guidance for healthcare professionals (HCPs), producers of online content, moderators of social media communities and other women LwBBC.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Galpin, AJ (Supervisor), Condie, JM (Supervisor) and Cooper-Ryan, AM (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Health Sciences
Depositing User: CM Ure
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2018 11:23
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 21:14

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