• Building addiction recovery capital through online participation in a recovery community

      Bliuc, Ana-Maria; Best, David; Iqbal, Muhammad; Upton, Katie; Western Sydney University; Sheffield Hallam University; Monash University; Job, Friends and Houses, UK (Elsevier BV, 2017-09-30)
      This study examines how online participation in a community of recovery contributes to personal journeys of recovery. It investigates whether recovery capital building – as indicated by increased levels and quality of online social interactions – and markers of positive identity development predict retention in a recovery program designed around fostering community involvement for early stage recovery addicts. It was predicted that online participation on the group's Facebook page and positive identity development are associated to retention in the program. To map how participants interact online, social network analysis (SNA) based on naturally occurring online data (N = 609) on the Facebook page of a recovery community was conducted. Computerised linguistic analyses evaluated sentiment of the textual data (capturing social identity markers). Linear regression analyses evaluated whether indicators of recovery capital predict program retention. To illustrate the findings in the context of the specific recovery community, presented are two case studies of key participants who moved from the periphery to the centre of the social network. By conducting in-depth interviews with these participants, personal experiences of engagement in the online community of group members who have undergone the most significant changes since joining the community are explored. Retention in the program was determined by a) the number of comment 'likes' and all ‘likes' received on the Facebook page; b) position in the social network (degree of centrality); and c) linguistic content around group identity and achievement. Positive online interactions between members of recovery communities support the recovery process through helping participants to develop recovery capital that binds them to groups supportive of positive change.
    • The effects of local socio-political events on group cohesion in online far-right communities

      Bliuc, Ana-Maria; Betts, John M.; Faulkner, Nicholas; Vergani, Matteo; Chow, Rui Jie; Iqbal, Muhammad; Best, David; University of Dundee; Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; et al. (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2020-03-30)
      In recent years, the reach and influence of far-right ideologies have been extended through online communities with devastating effects in the real world. In this research, we examine how far-right online communities can be empowered by socio-political events that are significant to them. Using over 14 years of data extracted from an Australian national sub-forum of a global online white supremacist community, we investigate whether the group cohesion of the community is affected by local race riots. Our analysis shows that the online community, not only became more cohesive after the riots, but was also reinvigorated by highly active new members who joined during the week of the riots or soon after. These changes were maintained over the longer-term, highlighting pervasive ramifications of the local socio-political context for this white supremacist community. Pre-registered analyses of data extracted from other white supremacist online communities (in South Africa and the United Kingdom) show similar effects on some of the indicators of group cohesion, but of reduced magnitude, and not as enduring as the effects found in the context of the Australian far-right online community.
    • Mapping social identity change in online networks of addiction recovery

      Best, David; Bliuc, Ana-Maria; Iqbal, Muhammad; Upton, Katie; Hodgkins, Steve; Sheffield Hallam University; Western Sydney University; Monash University; Job, Friends and Houses, UK; Blackpool Division, Lancashire Police (Informa UK Limited, 2017-07-27)
      ustainable addiction recovery is determined in part by how social and community resources can be mobilised to support long-term identity change. Given the current growth in technology, we ask what the role of online social interactions is in supporting long-term identity change for people in recovery. The paper also explores the relationship between the evolution of online social networks and key events that members experience in the outside world, based on a project examining changes in online participation over eight months among members of a UK addiction recovery community built around a social enterprise for employment and housing. The social enterprise had an open Facebook page that was used by staff, clients and by a diverse range of individuals not directly involved in the organisation. Based on an analysis of naturally occurring online data on the Facebook page, social network analysis (SNA) and computerised linguistic analysis that quantified emotion and belonging language in posts and subsequent ‘likes’, we found that variations in the structure of the online social network and the content of communication are consistent with ‘core’ members’ experience of those events. Our findings indicate that strong recovery networks supported by positive social interactions can contribute to achieving long-term identity change that supports sustaining engagement in recovery communities.