Supportive Information Environments (SIEs) are those online environments where people feel free to share their personal experiences, seek information about specific issues, and give and receive support from others facing similar challenges. In such a scenario, the on-demand ease of communication offered by OSPs and the possibility of being anonymous have the potential to facilitate social interactions among individuals experiencing difficulties interacting in face-to-face settings. Therefore, in the last decade, we have assisted in the rise and growth of online self-help groups i.e., peer support networks of mutual giving and receiving where individuals who have endured specific difficulties can offer hope, friendship, and support to others facing similar challenges.
Fully understand how online social interactions impact individuals and society is of utmost importance in the field of Social Artificial Intelligence since it is the first step toward the deployment of actionable strategies to mitigate or enhance their effects. The increasing availability of data provided by social platforms as well as the novel tools in the Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Network Science fields offer a unique occasion to tackle this task in real-world scenarios.
Our research aims at three complementary goals:
- understand the psychological and social mechanisms that underlie the formation and evolution of SIEs;
- evaluate the impact of SIEs on the well-being of their members;
- identify early warning signals of SIEs’ users that may indicate the onset of mental health issues.