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Authors: Anusha Arora & Archana Rebbapragada

Kamala Nehru College, University Of Delhi

The aim of the study is to gain qualitative insight into an online support group.  In support groups, which is a form of online community members provide each other with various types of help, usually non-material and non-professional for a particular, shared, usually burdensome issue. The objective was to understand how conversations flow in an online support group, to explore how identities are accomplished in an online community through use of nicknames and to examine the efficacy of the online support group. The support group chosen for the purpose of this study is on Alcoholics in recovery. Alcoholism is a disease characterized by craving to drink, loss of control, physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms and tolerance. For the aforementioned objectives, three tools of study were used to analyse 30 threads. For the first objective, conversation analysis was adopted which has three underlying assumptions under its purview i.e. sequential positioning is considered as a resource for the production and understanding of utterances, checking for projection of relevance and lastly, for noticeable absence. For the second objective, sociological analysis was adopted and an effort was made to analyse nicknames that members use on the forum. This analysis was carried put keeping in mind Agha’s (2007) concepts of emblem which involves three elements- a diacritic, a social persona and someone for whom it is an emblem. For the third objective thematic analysis was carried out for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns (themes) within the data. Through these themes we aimed to generate in-depth information of the support group and how its contents helped the members share their experiences & develop new identities for themselves. For accomplishing the purpose of the study, trajectory of the conversation was understood using CA, efficacy was evaluated using thematic analysis and sociological analysis of nicknames was done.  After analysing the posts using conversation analysis it was found that most threads on the group contained detailed life experiences, were high on emotionality, very well understood and members were able to relate to it easily. Language was simple with high relevance. Results of the thematic analysis generated a variety of themes ranging from positive recovery, fear of relapse, seeking validation to empowering as well as negative thoughts to sharing of information and knowledge. Lastly, with the use of sociological analysis it was found that members had made use of various kinds of nicknames which could be categorized under novel formations, adjectives(acting as symbols representing the person or aspect of one’s identity), verb forms, group specific names(member’s identity was tied to the group) and exclamations. This gave us insight into how various nicknames explore parts of these individual’s identities & act as self esteem enhancers & coping mechanisms in itself. Overall analysis showed that online support groups are beneficial, helpful and necessary for sufferers. They provide anonymity, emotional support, decrease chances of relapse, foster formation of better equipped and adaptive identities, positive emotionality & help members quit.

Keywords: online support group, alcoholism, conversation analysis, thematic analysis, sociological analysis.

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