Social Media for Social Support

A Study of International Graduate Students in the United States


  • Annalise Baines University of Kansas
  • Muhammad Ittefaq University of Kansas
  • Mauryne Abwao University of Kansas



higher education, interview, SNS, social support, social media, graduate students, international students


Based on 15 in-depth interviews, the present study aims to understand the common challenges international graduate students face and the coping strategies they employed, types of social networking sites (SNS) used, and social support sought from their relationship during graduate school. Common challenges faced are loneliness, stress, feeling overwhelmed with graduate school, and difficulties adjusting to a new culture. Coping strategies include sharing experiences with relations whom they trust and understand their situation, and joining online communities via SNS. The participants use both public and private SNS to seek social support depending on the various functionalities offered. SNS use depends on the affordances such as convenience, affordability, trust issues, and privacy. Most sought-after types of social support are emotional and informational via SNS.

Author Biographies

Annalise Baines, University of Kansas

Annalise Baines is a PhD student in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Kansas, United States. Her research focuses on environmental, health and marketing communications, digital technologies, and marginalized groups. Her research has been published in several academic journals including Vaccines, Newspaper Research Journal, and Frontiers in Communication. Email: Twitter: @AnnaliseFBaines

Muhammad Ittefaq, University of Kansas

Muhammad Ittefaq is a Ph.D. candidate in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas, United States. He obtained his M.A. in Media and Communication Science from Technische Universität Ilmenau, Germany. His research focuses on health communication, social media, misinformation, health disparities, racial minorities, and the Global South. His research has been published in various academic journals including International Journal of Communication, Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism, Journalism Practice, Media International Australia, Third World quarterly, Vaccine, Psychology & Health, American Journal of Health Education, and Health, Risk & Society. His dissertation focuses on the use of social media by US local health departments during COVID-19 and how they correct health misinformation during the early phase of the pandemic. Twitter: @IttefaqM Email:

Mauryne Abwao, University of Kansas

Mauryne Abwao is a Ph.D. Candidate at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. Her research concentrates on the following areas health communication, environmental racism, culture, and media representation of persons with disabilities, and the reproductive health rights of persons with disabilities. Her research has been published in several journals including Vaccine, Vaccines, Frontiers in Communication, Psychology & Health, American Journal of Health Education, and Vaccines. Additionally, she has published a book chapter with Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. 


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How to Cite

Baines, A., Ittefaq, M., & Abwao, M. (2021). Social Media for Social Support: A Study of International Graduate Students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 12(2).



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