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Seeking social support on social media: a coping perspective

Adela Chen (Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)
Kristina Lemmer (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Lueneburg, Germany)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 28 June 2024




This paper aims to examine the strength characteristics of a stressful event (i.e. novelty, disruption, and criticality) as factors that drive people’s social media use for seeking different types of supportive resources (i.e. emotional, appraisal, informational, and instrumental support) to facilitate emotion-focused and problem-focused coping. We further assess the impact of different types of social support obtained via social media use on people’s coping effectiveness.


Our study uses an online survey collecting data at two points in time from 291 social media users during the COVID-19 pandemic. Structural equation modeling was used for data analysis.


Empirical results reveal the usefulness and limitations of social media use as a coping mechanism. All three event strength characteristics influence people’s social media use for both emotion-focused and problem-focused coping. Event novelty motivates people’s pursuit of informational support on social media, event disruption drives social media use for seeking all four types of support, and event criticality motivates social media use for seeking emotional and informational support. However, only emotion-focused resources – emotional support and appraisal support – are found to significantly affect people’s coping effectiveness.


Our study contributes to a better understanding of the role played by social media when people cope with a stressful event. Applying the three characteristics of event strength allows us to identify people’s need for different supportive resources depending on how they perceive the event. Our analysis of the main and mediating effects of the four types of social support shows that not all types of social support can significantly enhance users’ coping effectiveness.



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor, whose insightful comments significantly enhanced the quality of this paper.


Chen, A. and Lemmer, K. (2024), "Seeking social support on social media: a coping perspective", Internet Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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