The purpose of this study was to explore whether a sense of collective or shared group identity was developed in one established online social support group for family caregivers and, if so, what did group identification mean for the group members and how was this cultivated in the group.
Eighteen semi-structured interviews were carried out with members of a family caregiver online support group in Ireland. Inductive and deductive reflexive thematic analysis drawing on the social identity approach (SIA) generated four main themes and several related subthemes.
The first main theme generated was The group are a Tribe and the Tribe gets it, with subthemes: Invisibility as a common experience, my Tribe understands I am more than just a carer and Just being part of the Tribe can be enough. The second main theme generated was the Tribe is a lifeline and life-changing, with related subthemes: Our connection relieves experiences of loneliness and social isolation and Sharing knowledge, experience and support made me feel visible. The third and fourth main themes generated were The leadership of group moderators helped create the Tribe identity and Lessons that can be learnt. These findings are discussed in relation to the social identity approach, social isolation and loneliness.
We concluded that group identity can be cultivated through considered, active and balanced moderation, creating a safe, welcoming and supportive space where family caregivers are able to have fun and seek information, advice and emotional support, which helps relieve loneliness and social isolation.