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Chronic Illness and Online Networking: Expectations, assumptions, and everyday realities



In the last decade, the relationship between social media and health has risen on the professional and policy agenda following the substantial growth in the use of social networking sites by individuals and organisations. People with chronic conditions such as diabetes mellitus, where intensive self-care is critical, are seen as a group that can benefit substantially from the networking and information exchanging functions of social media sites such as Facebook. Given this potential, we need to know more about policy  and professional expectations for the use of social media in the health services as well as the role of social networking sites in the spaces in which chronic illness is experienced and lived out.

Focusing on Facebook as the most popular SNS, this interdisciplinary project draws on linguistics, critical media studies, and sociology to (re-)situate diabetes and online networking in its contexts. Key questions guiding the project are:

  • What professional and policy arguments are madeto justify the (non-)use of SNSs in the UK healthcare context?
  • What lay and professional identities, practices and responsibilities are represented on diabetes-related Facebook pages of commerical, government (NHS) and voluntary healthcare organisations (e.g. Diabetes UK)?
  • How do people with diabetes use different networking and content-creating facilities on Facebook, and how do these practices relate to their daily lives and coping?
  • What are the similarities and differences between imagined and actual uses and users of SNSs in relation to health and healthcare, and what implications may this have for policy and practice concerning SNSs and chronic illness in the future?

A more detailed breakdown of the project and its work packages is available on the project detailspage.


Principle Investigator: Dr Nelya Koteyko, School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, Queen Mary University of London

Co-Investigator: Prof. Barrie Gunter, Department of Media and Communication, University of Leicester

Research Associate: Dr Daniel Hunt, School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, Queen Mary University of London


The Chronic Illness and Online Networking project is supported by the ESRC (ES/K005103/1) and conducted with collaboration from Diabetes UK. 


Diabetes UK




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