Live streaming is a form of media that allows streamers to directly interact with their audience. Previous research has explored mental health, Twitch.tv and live streaming platforms, and users' social motivations behind watching live streams separately. However, few have explored how these all intertwine in conversations involving intimate, self-disclosing topics, such as mental health. Live streams are unique in that they are largely masspersonal in nature; streamers broadcast themselves to mostly unknown viewers, but may choose to interact with them in a personal way. This study aims to understand users' motivations, preferences, and habits behind participating in mental health discussions on live streams. We interviewed 25 Twitch viewers about the streamers they watch, how they interact in mental health discussions, and how they believe streamers should discuss mental health on live streams. Our findings are contextualized in the dynamics in which these discussions occur. Overall, we found that the innate design of the Twitch platform promotes a user-hierarchy in the ecosystem of streamers and their communities, which may affect how mental health is discussed.
An Exploration of Mental Health Discussions in Live Streaming Gaming Communities
Live streaming is a unique form of media that creates a direct line of interaction between streamers and viewers. While previous research has explored the social motivations of those who stream and watch streams in the gaming community, there is a lack of research that investigates intimate self-disclosure in this context, such as discussing sensitive topics like mental health on platforms such as Twitch.tv. This study aims to explore discussions about mental health in gaming live streams to better understand how people perceive discussions of mental health in this new media context. The context of live streaming is particularly interesting as it facilitates social interactions that are masspersonal in nature: the streamer broadcasts to a larger, mostly unknown audience, but can also interact in a personal way with viewers. In this study, we interviewed Twitch viewers about the streamers they view, how and to what extent they discuss mental health on their channels in relation to gaming, how other viewers reacted to these discussions, and what they think about live streams, gaming-focused or otherwise, as a medium for mental health discussions. Through these interviews, our team was able to establish a baseline of user perception of mental health in gaming more »
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- Frontiers in Psychology
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- National Science Foundation
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