Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Matthew Seeger


Social Information Processing Theory (Walther, 1992) suggests that individuals can develop and sustain relationships in online contexts even with limited cues present. With more individuals using computer-mediated communication (CMC) for relational processes, there is an increased need for examination of how communication is used with fewer cues present. Due to its contributions to holistic health, spirituality is a dimension of support which also necessitates increased examination as well. The present study examines how CMC can be used for the relational purposes of spiritual and social support in online communities. Messages from two separate online bereavement communities were analyzed to discover themes for how social and spiritual support messages are used in an online bereavement context. Findings from the results suggest that spiritual support is a unique form of social support and can be found in CMC, regardless of the context. Spiritual support is used to share spiritual narratives, blessings, awareness, and prayers with others for the purpose of comfort and encouragement. The relationship to other types of support is also discussed, with results indicating that spiritual support is often shared as information.

Included in

Communication Commons