People with lung cancer and others affected by the condition are using social media to share information and support, but little is known about how these behaviours vary between different platforms. To investigate this, we extracted posts from Twitter (using relevant hashtags), the Lung Cancer Support Group on Facebook and the Macmillan.org.uk lung cancer discussion forum for a single month. Interaction Process Analysis revealed that all three platforms were used more for giving than seeking information, opinion or suggestions. However, interaction types (including sentiment) varied between platforms, reflecting their digital architectures, user-base and inclusion of a moderator. For example, a higher percentage of information-seeking and sentiment marked the Macmillan.org.uk, compared with Twitter and the Facebook Group. Further analysis of the messages using a four-dimensional typology of social support revealed that emotional and informational support types were most prevalent on the Macmillan.org.uk forum, closely followed by the Facebook Group. Contrary to expectations, Twitter posts showed the most companionship support, reflecting the use of hashtags as user-generated signals of community belonging and interests. Qualitative analysis revealed an unanticipated sub-category of spiritual support, which featured uniquely in the Lung Cancer Support Group on Facebook. There was little evidence of trolling or stigma, although some users remarked that lung cancer was unfairly resourced compared with other cancers. These findings provide new insights about how people affected by lung cancer use social media and begin to elucidate the value of different platforms as channels for patient engagement and support, or as potential research data sources.
Taylor, J., & Pagliari, C. (2019). The social dynamics of lung cancer talk on Twitter, Facebook and Macmillan.org.uk. Npj Digital Medicine, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41746-019-0124-y