On-line with the friends of Bill W: Social support and the Net

N Pleace, R Burrows, B Loader, S Muncer, S Nettleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Internet is now being used as a mechanism for the delivery of social support on a global scale, chiefly through the formation of self-help groups. Most of the research that has been undertaken on these groups has focussed on Usenet and the use of newsgroups for social support. This paper examines the use of an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) 'room', by a self-help group composed of problem drinkers. The group had an international membership and advocated the use of social support, rather than intervention by professional services, to help its membership overcome problem drinking. The paper considers the roles that these new forms of Internet mediated self-help and social support might play in changing the relationships of those who participate in them towards traditional health and social care services. The paper also critically examines the extent to which such fora might function as virtual 'communities' of care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2000


  • Internet
  • problem drinking
  • social policy
  • social support

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