Online Boundary Work in Stigmatized Groups: The Case of Support Groups for Israeli Childless Women
Drawing from stigma, boundary work, and computer-mediated communication theories, this study examines online boundary work in stigmatized communities. It considers the efforts of group members to distinguish their group from people who are not considered group members. This study compared two online support groups—one for Israeli women who are voluntarily childless and another for Israeli women with fertility issues. In-depth interviews with group members were used to examine the ways members of the two groups maintained group boundaries when interacting with out-group members. Results indicate that the type of stigma, the media infrastructure, and the social context played an important role in online boundary work of each online group. The findings suggest that, unlike in face-to-face support groups with defined physical boundaries, online communication among stigmatized people creates challenges to group identity and stigma management.