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This paper explores the potential dilemmas and opportunities for setting up online discussion forums when undertaking research on health-related behaviour. It draws on the setting up of a website called '' which sought to understand young women's relationship(s) with alcohol and their feelings about drinking and drunkenness. I reflect on how the use of virtual space may allow for more liberated and 'free' talk about sensitive topics in health, yet at the same time may create a voyeuristic and potentially abusive environment. In doing so, I explore the ultimate demise of the website and therefore the potential problems of utilising online methods. I suggest that researchers need to carefully mitigate and negotiate harm when considering such methods, whilst also acknowledging how participants themselves resist and negotiate risk in virtual places.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Place

Publication Date





51 - 58


Alcohol, Health, Internet, Online, Women, Adolescent, Adult, Alcohol Drinking, Alcoholic Intoxication, Female, Health Behavior, Humans, Internet, Interpersonal Relations, Social Media, United Kingdom, Young Adult