Drug Addicts and the Internet

With the rapid growth of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and Internet over the past fifteen years, the ways in which interpersonal communication behaviors are being modified or changed by computer-mediated channels, such as chat rooms, bulletin boards, and email, have attracted the attention of communication researchers.

Another important interpersonal communication context that has gained the attention of social scientists in recent years is face-to-face are drug addicts anonimous acoholic support groups that could be maintained through World Wide Web. (American Psychological Association,1997)

Drug addicts support groups have proliferated over the past twenty-five years, and relatively few studies have examined computer-mediated such support groups. Preliminary research dealing with on-line support groups suggests that they may offer a number of advantages to their members compared to face-to-face drug rehabilitation groups, such as twenty-four hour access to the group, anonymity, and an extended support network that would be impossible to have in a face-to-face environment. However, researchers have largely ignored the potential for disadvantages in computer-mediated support groups. (Hilingh, C., Fridlund, B., & Segesten. 1995) For example, increased anonymity, increased distance between support providers, and asynchronous communication that typically occur within on-line support groups could possibly negatively affect on-line group members' satisfaction with the support they receive.

Support appraisal, or the perceptions of social support (such as the degree to which an individual is satisfied with the support he or she receives), reportedly influences how people adjust to stressful situations. (Wasserman & Danforth 2002) A mediating variable that appears to influence how people adjust to stressful situations is the type of coping strategies they employ when faced with a problem. No studies, however, have examined the relationship between satisfaction with supportive relationships in on-line support groups and the types of coping strategies used by on-line support group members.

Nevertheless, the Internet is more than just a computer network. It's actually a network of networks, meaning that anyone who can connect to a computer network that's part of the Internet has access to the other networks as well. The Internet consists of more than a million computers on an estimated 48,000 networks, serving more than 30 million registered users or "accounts" in more than 200 countries. The Internet has doubled in size every year since 1988 and continues to grow at an estimated rate of 10-15 percent per month.

The more often an individual spends time communicating with others on-line, the more easily s/he can adapt to the lack of nonverbal and contextual cues and the more satisfied s/he becomes with the relationship. A number of aspects of supportive computer-mediated interpersonal relationships, however, have not received adequate attention in the literature. For example, we know little about whether the amount of time individuals spend communicating with others in on-line support groups is related to the size of their on-line and face-to-face support networks or their satisfaction with both types of support networks. Given the literature on computer-mediated communication and relational satisfaction, one can reasonably assume that the amount of time a person spends giving and receiving social support on-line would influence his or her perceptions of both networks in terms of support satisfaction. Moreover, the amount of time a person spends communicating in on-line support groups could reasonably be assumed to be related to both the size of his or her on-line support network and face-to-face support network. ...

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