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BELLTONES: Celebrating Communicating--Online Support Groups

By Mary Ann Bell - Posted Jul 1, 2007
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Back in December it occurred to me to write several articles about the Internet and communication. Part of my decision came because there continue to be people who say that computer technology, including the Net, tends to isolate people. My own experience is so much to the contrary that I wanted to rebut this notion. So in the May/June 2007 MMIS issue, I wrote about listserv communication and the benefits thereof. That caused me to think of a related but slightly different array of communities: online support groups. For our own personal use, and also for our patrons, it is worthwhile to look at these environments. They can be highly beneficial, but there are a few caveats. Thus I plan to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such groups in this column.

Personally Speaking …

On a personal note, I have enjoyed considerable benefits from online support groups. While many of these exist to offer help with medical concerns, my first experience was of a different nature. Back in the late 1990s, as I was pursuing my doctorate, I happened on a group called PhinisheD ( com-prised of graduate students striving to finish their doctorates, especially the dreaded dissertations. This community became a vital part of my life for several years. Working away on classes, research, and writing while others lead "normal" lives can be a lonely existence. This group put me in daily communication with others leading the same life with its many ups and downs. No one else among a student’s family and friends may fully understand the frustrations and triumphs of doctoral studies, so having this place to visit and to share can help keep one going through the hard times. I received practical advice regarding research and statistical analysis, attaboys when I achieved goals, and daily laughs from this amazing group of people.


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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