Need More Proof Of the Echo Chamber in Online Support Groups

Trevor van Mierlo published and original paper in JMIR “The 1% Rule in Four Digital Health Social Networks: An Observational Study”. We all know there is the 90-9-1 principle (Pareto Principle) for Internet communities. Just to refresh our collective memories, 90% lurk, 9% contribute, and 1% are superusers. Mierlo wanted to know if this rule applies to moderated Digital Health Social Networks (DHSNs) whose mission is to facilitate behavior change (Problem Drinking, Depression, Smoking Cessation, and Panic Disorder). 

Four of DHSNs superusers drove over 74% of the content and generated the vast majority of posts while Lurkers generated limited or no network value. The authors recommend that healthcare organizations should recruit and retain Superusers. Call me old fashion but recruiting Superusers strikes as putting shills at the blackjack tables in Vegas to draw the suckers in. Additionally they note that to really fully understand the Pareto Principle and how it functions within support networks future research should look a how different indications, disease states or actor types behave and what are the demographic and psychographic characteristics. 

The more we can learn about online behaviors and how individuals react and function the better we will be to drive change. We don’t need to make everyone a Superuser as much as understand why some lurk and do they learn from lurking and how do they apply what they’ve learned.

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