Three studies that used social media data and that are discussed in this chapter merit close consideration. One of the most obvious ways of analysing social media data is to access publicly available pages and explore what people are saying about a topic in which they are interested. In Burke and Goodman’s (2012) study, the researchers accessed Facebook pages that were both pro- and anti-asylum seeking. They considered how people constructed arguments on these pages and, in the case of those opposed to asylum-seeking, how they managed accusations about being ‘a Nazi’. Their study highlights the sometimes shocking rhetoric that appears on social media and is far less common in face-to-face interactions.
A less common way of analysing social media data is to explore the private messages that users send to each other. Meredith and Stokoe (2014) examined Facebook chat messages (voluntarily provided by research participants) to see how they differ from face-to-face verbal interaction. This involved detailed forms of discourse analysis.
A further way of using social media is to ask people to produce social media data for the purpose of your research. This was the approach of Yi-Frazier et al (2015), who asked participants to post images to Instagram using an allocated hashtag. They then followed this up with interviews to explore what the participants had produced.
These three studies show a variety of ways in which social media data can be gathered and studied.
- Burke, S. and Goodman, S. (2012) ‘“Bring back Hitler’s gas chambers”: Asylum seeking, Nazis and Facebook – a discursive analysis’, Discourse & Society, 23(1): 19–33.
- Meredith, J. and Stokoe, E. (2014) ‘Repair: Comparing Facebook “chat” with spoken interaction’, Discourse & Communication, 8(2): 181–207.
- Yi-Frazier, J.P., Cochrane, K., Mitrovich, C., Pascual, M., Buscaino, E., Eaton, L., Panlasigui, N., Clopp, B. and Malik, F. (2015) ‘Using Instagram as a modified application of Photovoice for storytelling and sharing in adolescents with type 1 diabetes’, Qualitative Health Research, 25(10): 1372–82.