Q. What are the different types of online groups I can join?

A.

Just like support groups that meet face-to-face, there are several different kinds of support groups that “meet” on the internet. Some of these groups are offered through social media platforms like Facebook, or make use of emerging technologies like virtual reality. But traditionally and most commonly, online support groups are split into the following categories:

Chat Group – In online chat, the conversation takes place in real-time, which means that when you type in a message, the other members of the group see it instantly and can respond. A chat group is usually held at a specific time and day.

Listserv – This kind of group allows its members to email each other with questions and comments. Because emails are automatically sent to everyone on the list, the number of messages you receive each day can vary and be high at times.

Message Board – CancerCare offers this type of support group, which features a bulletin board-style forum that is accessible to members, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Participants can write comments and questions, and read and respond to one another. A message board is usually more flexible, as members can post whenever it’s most convenient for them.

Because participating in an online group is anonymous, some people find it a bit impersonal and prefer meeting face-to-face. Other people may prefer the anonymity and feel more at ease sharing with others. That being said, one unique and positive feature of online groups is that they allow people to connect with others in similar circumstances — regardless of where they live. For instance, CancerCare’s online groups are offered by specific cancer diagnoses and populations to ensure that participants are getting support from a community of peers.

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