Membership and Boundary Maintenance on an Online Self-Harm Forum
In this article we explore how young adults became members and sustained membership in an online self-harm support forum, SharpTalk. We take a discursive approach to consider resources young people used to establish themselves, how others responded to their attempts, and how membership categories were developed and applied. Participants displayed expectations about appropriate ways of discussing self-harm, and about responses and advice. New posters made reference to other self-harm sites, provided biomedicalized narratives of their “story,” and asked for help in particular ways. Participants were active in shaping interactions on the forum, requesting input from site moderators, and challenging each other both on perceived infringements of posting content, and on style of posting pertinent to membership. On the SharpTalk site, perceived deviance in posting behavior, and also the giving of health care advice, were most commonly addressed by other young people who self-harmed, rather than by the site moderators. We consider implications for creating sites that enable young people who self-harm to become members and sustain membership, and therefore access support.