Illness Narratives: Sharing Stories and Support Online: A Study of Narrative Resources and Identity in an Online Support Group for Multiple Sclerosis

Monique de Boer Solomon
Faculty of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary
April, 2003
 

Abstract

Talking about illness in our society today has reached epidemic proportions. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet keep our thoughts occupied with stories of illness while offering the latest health and wellness information. These stories of illness carry powerful messages about how a person does illness and what meanings society, in general, attributes to the idea of illness. Embedded in the personal stories that we tell about illness are larger cultural ways of talking about illness and numerous other narrative resources that are drawn upon to story our identity. This project examines the way in which members of a social support group for chronic illness (Multiple Sclerosis) draw on available social and cultural narrative resources to communicate about their illness experiences with one another and accomplish their identities in an online context. Positioned at a narrative intersection where resources for storying the self meet with the ongoing narrative practices of everyday talk, the project uses Holstein and Gubrium’s method of analyzing interpretive practice. From this perspective we are afforded a view of the larger narrative resources that are drawn upon as members of the online group share stories and support. Additionally, we are able to consider the ways that these narrative resources are practiced in everyday talk to accomplish identity.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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