A review of social science research using Facebook
Posted by Matt Wall
A quick-ish post just to point you towards a fascinating review published last month in Perspectives in Psychological Science: Wilson, Gosling and Graham (2012) A review of Facebook research in the social sciences. These authors review a set of 412 (!) studies that have been published, all since Facebook was launched in 2004. One of the striking figures in their review is this one, which highlights both the meteoric increase in Facebook users (currently over 800 million) and the parallel growth in research papers which have used Facebook as a means to gather data:
The 412 research reports were divided into five broad-ish categories, in terms of their aims:
1. Who is using Facebook?
2. Why do people use Facebook?
3. How are people presenting themselves on Facebook?
4. How is Facebook affecting relationships among groups and individuals?
5. Why are people disclosing information on Facebook despite potential risks?
The authors suggest that, as well as just being a descriptive characterisation of the literature, these five central questions might serve as a common framework for future research in other online social networks, especially research which seeks to compare patterns of usage across two or more networks. Seems reasonable.
Also of interest (to me, anyway) is Appendix B which details the major data collection methods used by the studies, and also discusses some ethical considerations. It notes that some researchers have built custom applications for Facebook in order to collect data, but that these applications are not always successful in attracting a large user-base, i.e. some ‘go viral’ and some do not. This seems like an opportunity to do some interesting ‘meta’-research; a study of which research-driven applications are successful, and which aren’t!
Online social networks are an important part of many people’s social lives nowadays, and it seems unlikely that their influence has even come close to peaking yet; we can only expect that take-up and usage of these social tools will carry on increasing (and perhaps even accelerating) for some time. It’s good to see that social scientists have embraced these new ways that we all interact and are making serious efforts to describe and evaluate them.
About Matt WallI do brains. BRAINZZZZ.
Posted on June 21, 2012, in Commentary, Experimental techniques, Internet and tagged Facebook, online research, online social networks, psychology, Review, social science. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.