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Eileen Fowles


Social media use related to chronic disease has become pervasive, yet few researchers have examined the influence of social media on health care message dissemination and health care outcomes. In this study, the use of Instagram, an image-rich social media platform, for sharing health information was examined. Nurses, as key providers of patient information, need to understand the relative effectiveness of different types of social media for health information, how social media is currently used by health care consumers, and how to best use various social media platforms to improve patient outcomes. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the meaning of Instagram use for visual image sharing related to #rheumatoidarthritis. Guided by Rogers's diffusion of innovation theory, a visual ethnography approach using content analysis was completed. Images for analysis (n = 106) were randomly selected, using the Instagram public search feature, during 7 distinct periods. Content analysis, conducted by 2 coders, was used to identify categories and provide a sentiment analysis of the images. Approximately 75% of the images were determined to be positive by both coders. Social interaction and self-expression were the most frequently identified categories, suggesting that individuals use Instagram primarily for sharing awareness, sharing encouragement, and self-expression regarding rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This finding is consistent with use of Instagram for social networking and self-promotion. The potential for positive social change may ultimately be the ability for Instagram to serve as a social, personal, and health-related information sharing platform for diverse audiences, particularly those who may be socially isolated due to RA.

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