Online emotional support: discourse functionalities on Chilean Facebook pages by patients with chronic pain

Mariana Pascual


This research analyzed an emerging and rapidly increasing type of communication from the perspective of its social purpose (MARTIN; ROSE, 2008). We focus on comments from three public Facebook webpages by endometriosis patients to determine the interpersonal configuration of the texts produced. The corpus comprises 7230 comments written over a period of over four years. The data were analyzed in terms of the interpersonal configurations based on the System of Appraisal (MARTIN; WHITE, 2005). Results indicate that Facebook pages corresponding to patient interaction perform a variety of social purposes, thus, different discourse genres. The main genres identified refer to the exchange of affective meanings, aiming at consolidating a sense of community and align its members, by exchanging emotional support. Other genres aimed at the exchange of information, focusing on specific details of the condition. A third type of genre identified was of the story type, narrating the patients’ experiences with endometriosis and the resulting chronic pain. Results point to clearly different discoursal configurations, with a marked interpersonal functionality. This highly interactive form of digital communication seems to have partly replaced patient-patient interactions given in face-to-face modalities in the past, in clubs, churches, hospitals or other support groups. However, it has expanded the typical narrative nature and purpose of the original social practice, to include genuine exchanges of information and emotion which seems to have been facilitated by the distant and more impersonal type of participation stemming from online communication.


Discourse genres. Digital communication. System of Appraisal.

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