How the internet is giving birth (to) a new social order

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The expansion of technological access has led to substantial shifting in opportunities to connect geographically dispersed members of marginalized groups. Digital networks offer less powerful individuals access to challenging the social order. The Internet, believed to be inherently democratic, has produced a new shift in the politics of pregnancy. This study examines the culture of three public Internet forum sites dedicated to experiences of pregnant women. Where online support forums for breast cancer and other ‘ill’ communities have been researched previously, pregnancy falls into a unique divide between infirm and well. Pregnant women are not ill based on their status as pregnant, yet many suffer ailments and illnesses as a result of their pregnancies. Additionally, the burden of uncertainty shouldered by pregnant women, with fears of miscarriage, harming the fetus, and even personal death, haunt most throughout their pregnancies. Yet, previous research has shown that doctors are often found to be unsympathetic to these fears and discomforts, socializing women toward a culture of maternal sacrifice, whereby discounting their suffering as ‘good for the baby’. Online forums have emerged, offering pregnant women space to challenge the culture which dictates suffering in silence. Our analysis reveals that participants use online pregnancy forums to ask questions, gauge the normalcy of their physical and psychological experiences, and vent their frustrations to an audience that is both sympathetic and supportive. Online forums for pregnant women offer empowerment through information sharing and entitle women to ask more questions, demand more information, and challenge their medical providers.

Original Citation

Cohen, Jodi H.; Raymond, Jennifer M. (2011). How the internet is giving birth (to) a new social order. Information, Communication & Society, 14(6), 937-957. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2011.582132