BACKGROUND: Web-based social support can address social isolation and unmet support needs among young adults with cancer (aged 18-39 years). Given that 94% of young adults own and use smartphones, social media can offer personalized, accessible social support among peers with cancer.OBJECTIVE: This study aims to examine the specific benefits, downsides, and topics of social support via social media among young adults with cancer.METHODS: We conducted semistructured interviews with young adults with cancer, aged between 18 and 39 years, who were receiving treatment or had completed treatment for cancer.RESULTS: Most participants (N=45) used general audience platforms (eg, Facebook groups), and some cancer-specific social media (eg, Caring Bridge), to discuss relevant lived experiences for medical information (managing side effects and treatment uncertainty) and navigating life with cancer (parenting and financial issues). Participants valued socializing with other young adults with cancer, making connections outside their personal networks, and being able to validate their emotional and mental health experiences without time and physical constraints. However, using social media for peer support can be an emotional burden, especially when others post disheartening or harassing content, and can heighten privacy concerns, especially when navigating cancer-related stigma.CONCLUSIONS: Social media allows young adults to connect with peers to share and feel validated about their treatment and life concerns. However, barriers exist for receiving support from social media; these could be reduced through content moderation and developing more customizable, potentially cancer-specific social media apps and platforms to enhance one's ability to find peers and manage groups.
View details for DOI 10.2196/28234
View details for PubMedID 34473063