Research Article| Volume 27, P121-126, January 2019

Health, honesty and happiness: Authenticity and anonymity in social media participation of individuals with multiple sclerosis

Published:September 19, 2018DOI:


      • MS symptoms can be stigmatizing and isolating in ways that interrupt the social interactions of individuals with MS.
      • Honesty is associated with happiness in in-person interactions for individuals with MS.
      • In on-line interactions, honesty is associated with less happiness when anonymous and unrelated when using real name.
      • Individuals may be more honest online when using real name than anonymous.
      • Online social networks do not seem to substitute for in-person interactions with friends for individuals with MS.



      Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can impair social participation and lead to isolation. Online platforms could help to increase this participation for individuals with MS, circumventing potential physical, emotional and cognitive barriers. Yet, minimal research has examined the differential impact of online versus face-to face interaction on happiness.


      In our study we analyzed the relationship between honesty, anonymity, and happiness in individuals diagnosed with MS, who reported using online social networks.


      We merged answers of 440 individuals from the Davidson Social Participation Survey with the NARCOMS Enrollment and Update Surveys. Descriptive analysis, T-tests, Pearson correlations and OLS multivariate regression analysis were conducted.


      Individuals reported they could be more honest in face-to face interactions than with online contacts, regardless of whether they were anonymous or identifiable. Happiness was associated with honesty or authenticity in in-person interactions. We found a negative association between happiness and honesty for anonymous participants online, and no association between happiness and honesty when using real names. Consistent results emerged for individuals using patient-specific and generic platforms.


      Our study implies that anonymity may not improve happiness of individuals with MS. We need to address structural barriers to enable their in-person interactions.
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