A Space for Suffering? Communicating Breast Cancer in an Online Self-Help Context

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Abstract

In this article, I explore the communication in an online self-help group for Norwegian women with breast cancer, aiming to add further knowledge to the question of whether the online context functions as a “liberating realm” for alternative discourses about illness. My analysis is conducted within an action-oriented framework and is based on participant observation of the online communication and qualitative interviews of women who participated in the group. Based on the analysis, I argue that proposals of a replication of dominating offline discourses in online communication are affirmed. More precisely, I argue that a “socially desirable” story about the cancer “hero” was further circulated in this online context, and that experiences of resignation and meaninglessness were not woven into the communication. Offering some reflections on this process, I suggest that it has active and voluntary aspects that need attention in further research.

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