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Beyond tagging, poking, and throwing sheep: Using Facebook in social research

Thomas, Gareth Martin ORCID: 2012. Beyond tagging, poking, and throwing sheep: Using Facebook in social research. Qualitative Researcher (14) , pp. 8-10.

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Much excitement, public and scholastic, surrounds the ascent of Facebook, a social-networking website attracting over 500 million users since its inception in 2004. Facebook has been increasingly integrated into the public sphere, proliferating media activities, communication practices, and social experiences. It has become a glowing reference to the mounting centrality of internet technologies in our everyday existence. A burgeoning phenomenon showing no immediate sign of exhausting the interest of the current populace, Facebook offers its users various functions including, but not limited to, requesting ‘friends’, chatting among peers, playing games, uploading and ‘tagging’ photos, creating events, posting on a user’s ‘wall’, ‘poking’ or ‘throwing sheep’ at other users, and sharing media with other users. Academic attention on Facebook has identified its importance as a communication tool for users to support existing offline connections (Bumgarner 2007), together with how it contributes to the experience of jealousy in romantic relationships (Muise et al. 2009), how it provides university students with a backstage area where role-conflict is worked through (Selwyn 2009), and how it presents a risk to privacy invasion by prompting users to disclose personal information (Debatin et al. 2009). Overwhelming coverage within the social sciences has been dedicated to the relationship between Facebook and privacy issues, online friendships, and building social capital. Given much less attention, however, is the methodological profits it has for our field. Referencing a qualitative study exploring how mothers adapted to their child being diagnosed with Down’s syndrome (Thomas 2010), this paper takes issue with the capacity of Facebook to be employed as a methodological tool and its role in the development of both the research topic and the methods facilitating an investigation of this topic. As well as being identified and approached using Facebook, mothers participated in online interviews via the social-networking site. The paper is best described as a reflexive account as opposed to a piecemeal compendium detailing each ‘correct’ course of action for achieving the methodological potential of Facebook. Rather than tendering a how-to guide, thus, the paper is, au fond, a how-I.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Publisher: Qualiti, WISERD
ISSN: 1748-7315
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 12:59

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