This article contributes to a better understanding of patterns of social support in relation to digital inequalities. Based on an extensive qualitative study, it unveils the diversity of support networks and support seeking patterns. A typology of six patterns of help seeking is presented and described: The support-deprived, The community-supported, The supported through substitution, The network-supported, The vicarious learners, and The self-supported. The article also critically engages with the often unnuanced academic literature on social support. The research and the typology reveal that the quality of support, as well as the availability of potential or actual support, is not only influenced by socio-economic factors. Rather, the strength of the relationship and the level of intimacy between individuals is an important predictor of support seeking. As such, this article shows that mechanisms of in/exclusion are highly social, as they entail a diversity of formal and informal support seeking patterns, which in turn, have an important influence on the adoption and use of digital media. The article argues that understanding such mechanisms is rooted in reconciling micro-level interactions to macro-level patterns of inequalities. To show the specificity of social support within digital inequalities research, and to demarcate the concept from definitions of other academic disciplines, the concept of social support for digital inclusion is introduced. It is defined as the aid (emotional, instrumental, informational) that an individual receives from his/her network in his/her use of digital technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Inclusion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

    Research areas

  • digital divide, digital inclusion, social support for digital inclusion, internet use, social inclusion, social support

ID: 49205011