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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Finding similar others online : social support in online communities of people with a stigmatized identity Godard, Rebecca Joy Puji


Online groups can connect people with similar identities, interests, or experiences. People with stigmatized or minority identities may be particularly likely to participate in and benefit from online groups, as they may not have access to support from similar others in their offline lives. This study investigated online group use among multiracial people, who constitute a growing yet understudied population. In a sample of 461 members of two Facebook groups for multiracial people, it examined variables that influence the extent to which users experience belonging within the group and perceive the group as available to provide social support. Results indicated that members who perceived others in the group as more similar to themselves experienced greater belonging and perceived the group as better able to provide support. Users who viewed their multiracial identity as highly important also experienced better social support outcomes. Stigma consciousness, the extent to which someone expects to be stereotyped based on their multiracial identity, was associated with a lower sense of belonging. Finally, active participation (i.e., engaging directly with other members) and self-disclosure partially mediated the relationship between perceived similarity and support outcomes, suggesting that they may act as mechanisms by which users benefit from connections to similar others. This study indicates that online groups can play a positive role in users’ social lives through their ability to promote connections to similar others. Findings contribute to the literature on online group use by identifying specific contexts, types of engagement, and user characteristics that can promote positive outcomes during social media and online group use. This study also has implications for research on stigma and discrimination, indicating that interactions with similar others in online spaces can benefit people with stigmatized identities.

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