Veteran Critical Theory as a Lens to Understand Veterans' Needs and Support on Social Media

Jiawei Zhou, Koustuv Saha, Irene Michelle Lopez Carron, Dong Whi Yoo, Catherine R. Deeter, Munmun De Choudhury, Rosa I. Arriaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Veterans are a unique marginalized group facing multiple vulnerabilities. Current assessments of veteran needs and support largely come from first-person accounts guided by researchers' prompts. Social media platforms not only enable veterans to connect with each other, but also to self-disclose experiences and seek support. This paper addresses the gap in our understanding of veteran needs and their own support dynamics by examining self-initiated and ecologically-valid self-expressions. In particular, we adopt the Veteran Critical Theory (VCT) to conduct a computational study on the Reddit community of veterans. Using topic modeling, we find veteran-friendly gestures with good intentions might not be appreciated in the subreddit. By employing transfer learning methodologies, we find this community has more informational and emotional support behaviors than general online communities and a higher prevalence of informational support than emotional support. Lastly, an examination of support dynamics reveals some contrasts to previous scholarship in military culture and social media. We discover that positive language and author platform tenure have negative relations with posts receiving replies and replies getting votes, and that replies reflecting personal disclosures tend to get more votes. Through the lens of VCT, we discuss how online communities can help uncover veterans' needs and provide more effective social support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number133
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW1
StatePublished - Apr 7 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • community dynamic
  • critical theory
  • language analysis
  • need discovery
  • online community
  • reddit
  • social support
  • topic modeling
  • veteran

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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