Digital outreach/reaching out digitally: Online sharing in the face of emotional distress

The web has opened up diverse possibilities for supporting people who are experiencing emotional distress, including those who are describing suicidal thoughts and behaviours. These range from formal support services to informal friendship, affinity or interest groups through which individuals may be offered or seek practical or emotional support.

This project seeks to asking the following questions:

  • When, why and with what consequences do people look to online sources of help and support when experiencing emotional distress?
  • How are trust and empathy established (and lost) in the context of emotional distress in different online environments?
  • How do others respond to online communications suggesting apparent suicidal thoughts or behaviour?

The research team will be looking at empathy and trust in relation to two kinds of web-based interaction: use of Samaritans’ email-based, one-to-one emotional support; and posts with reference to suicide in one-to-many online spaces such as Twitter. Drawing on sociological work on emotions, personal relationships and social media the team is aiming to explore trust and empathy through interactionist and narrative methods as well as develop an analytical approach for working across quantitative and qualitative analyses of Twitter data.

More details can be found on the project webpage.

This project is part of the ‘Space4Sharing’ project, funded as part of the EMoTICON programme.

Contact: Julie.Brownlie@ed.ac.uk or frances.shaw@ed.ac.uk

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