Searching the Internet for health information is now routine; recommending and receiving medical expertise on social media platforms such as Instagram (IG) during medical treatment remains understudied. After analyzing more than 200 images on IG related to (in)fertility treatment, we employed a directed content analysis. In this manuscript, we investigate self-disclosure related to in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment on IG and the types of linguistic (e.g., written affirmations, hashtags) and paralinguistic (e.g., emoji) feedback given in response. We found users on IG received emotional (e.g., expressions of care), informational (e.g., medical and treatment advice), tangible (e.g., gifted medicine and care packages), and belonging (e.g., #ttcsisters) functions of social support in response to self-disclosure (Uchino, 2004). By concluding that social media platforms allow for unique social support exchanges, we offer theoretical and practical implications for scholars, practitioners, and patients interested in social support, supportive communication, and emoji on social media platforms.


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pp. 320-349
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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