Modern Social Support Structures: Online Social Networks and their Implications for Social Workers
AbstractMapping and assessing social networks and the quality of their social support is a valuable intervention strategy for social workers. These networks have now spread onto the digital realm in the form of Online Social Networks (OSNs). This study investigated the nature of social support provided by such networks to their users in a rural mid-South University (USA) and explored parallels with the current understanding of social support in conventional social networks. A web-based survey administered to college students revealed that users of these online networks were predominantly undergraduate first year students, female, single, unemployed and from a variety of academic disciplines. The examination of the components of OSNs appears to mirror those of offline networks. They also seem to complement the effects of each other while contributing to an individual's support system. The paper concludes with critical implications of such online social networking for University students and social workers in practice and education.
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