9/2 – What Motivates Health Information Exchange in Social Media? The Roles of Social Cognitive Theory and Perceived Interactivity

In What Motivates Health Information Exchange in Social Media? The Roles of Social Cognitive Theory and Perceived Interactivity, Hsien-Cheng Lin and Chun-Ming Chang argue that the exchange of health information online is strongly affected by outcome expectations and the type of interaction (human-to-human and/or human-to-information) that is occurring. Specifically, the authors show that the expected benefits of an interaction usually guide how an individual acts. 


Lin and Chang show that the motivations and outcomes of seeking out health information differs for individuals depending on who/what they are interacting with. To come to their conclusions, they gathered evidence by surveying Facebook users in Taiwan in regards to exchanging and seeking out health information. They divided the motivations for seeking out information and the perceived interactivity into two categories: human-to-human interactions and human-to-information interactions. When humans connect with other humans online to exchange health related information, individuals expect to both learn how to better manage their health and create social bonds with others. Moreover, when people are connecting solely with content online and not other people, they also expect to have higher levels of health self-management competency, but they do not expect to strengthen any social relationships. The authors conclude that, “personal benefits are the most vital antecedent factors driving an individual’s behavior,” (7). Overall, people often use social media and online platforms to acquire personalized health information, which makes the analysis of the motivations and expectations for this type of communication important. 


The argument that Lin and Chang presented seems valid and interesting, but it is not very generalizable. With the progression of technology and communication platforms, accessing helpful information about health has never been easier. Personally, I use the internet all of the time for health questions/concerns, which I know is very common. Since so many people turn to social media for this type of communication, it is important to understand the motivations and benefits. This would allow health professionals and those knowledgeable on the subject matter to best connect with and help their audiences. The one flaw I do see in the study is that the researchers only looked at a group of Facebook users in Taiwan. Therefore, I do not know if the conclusions drawn from this study can be generalized to other social media platforms and/or populations. The researchers did acknowledge this limitation in the paper, but I would be curious to see other studies on this topic to see if the results and findings are consistent with what they found. 


Your doctor may not want you to use WebMD in case you misdiagnose yourself, but health exchange and communications online are often valuable and beneficial for many individuals. Therefore, studying health information exchange and digestion online is important since it is so widespread and common.

One thought on “9/2 – What Motivates Health Information Exchange in Social Media? The Roles of Social Cognitive Theory and Perceived Interactivity

  1. I also was concerned about the generalizability of this study. Like you pointed out, since the researchers only surveyed a group of Taiwanese Facebook users, it is not clear whether their findings would apply to social media users in other countries or on other platforms. While I do think that there are similarities between the way different people use social media, I also imagine that there are cultural differences regarding what information is shared and how people share it. I also imagine health information exchange varies from platform to platform. I can’t see people sharing health information on Snapchat, for example. For these reasons, I think further research on health exchange communication should be done before findings are solidified.

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