System Design to Reduce Social Cost of Question Asking

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Many of us have used social media to ask questions, but there are times when we are hesitant to do so. For example, when we are dealing with personal struggles that we don’t want others to know, we may end up searching online for help and advice, because we are not willing to ask questions that disclose our weaknesses and harm our social image that has been curated online. This psychological burden that prevents us from posting questions to social networks is called “social cost”. In addition to the concerns of harming social image, people are not willing to ask for help if it incurs obligation to reciprocate, discloses personal information, or bothers others. The great potential of social media in exchanging knowledge and support cannot be fully tapped if we do not reduce such social cost.

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Take Your Medicine: Write Online!

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Decades of research have shown that writing about our deepest, darkest emotions makes us feel better. But what happens when we write about those feelings online?

Patients with life-threatening illnesses must regularly process heavy emotions. Many patients and their caregivers turn to online health communities to get support and share their journeys. We partnered with CaringBridge.org – a large journaling platform that lets patients write about their health journey – to explore how expressive writing affects people’s engagement with their online community.

Haiwei demonstrates posting a journal update on CaringBridge.

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