The “application” of Facebook as a research tool to explore human behaviour and the self-coding done by “participants”

John M Larkin, W George Kernohan, Briege M Lagan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

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Rationale: Alcohol misuse can negatively impact on the physical, psychological, social and financial aspects of individuals, their families, and society. Recent figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2015) rank Ireland fourth out of its 34 member countries for annual consumption. In light of this and the dramatic increase in alcohol related morbidity and mortality in the 1829 age group and reports such as one in four Irish people disclosing they have experienced harm as a result of someone else’s alcohol consumption (Hope 2014), alcohol misuse especially among young adults has been identified as a public health priority. It has been suggested that Social Networking Sites (SNSs) expose important information about how young adults are interacting with one another. It has also been suggested that it is also possible to learn about the behaviour of individuals through what they choose to display publically on SNSs.Aim: As part of a wider research project to inform the development of an intervention to address the issue of alcohol misuse by young people in the context of social media in the Republic of Ireland, a study to describe the shared patterns of behaviours and language of young adults on Facebook in Ireland with regard to alcohol has been undertaken.Methodology: A virtual ethnographic approach using nonparticipant observation was utilized to follow the interactions of participants on Facebook. Purposive sampling was used to identify participants aged 1829 years old, living in the Republic of Ireland and who had a publically available Facebook profile. Permission to conduct this research was granted by the Filter Committee of the Health Research Ethics and Governance Committee at Ulster University. Using a codebook specifically developed for the study the content on each participants’ profile over a 30day period was reviewed for e.g. textual comments, pictures and down loaded icons for any references in relation to alcohol.Analysis: Data collection and content data analysis will be completed by December 2016.Results: Some of the preliminary recurrent themes emerging from the data regarding conversations of interest relating to alcohol consumption include; planning alcohol drinking activities, negative effect/consequences of alcohol consumption, reaching the legal age for alcohol consumption, special occasions.Conclusion: Conclusions and recommendations will be presented once full data collection and analysis is complete. In addition to providing findings from this observational study the researcher will also report some of the challenges that were encountered when utilizing Facebook as a data collection tool.Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 22 Feb 2017
Event3rd Digital Behaviour Change Conference - Mary Ward House, Tavistock Place, London
Duration: 22 Feb 2017 → …


Conference3rd Digital Behaviour Change Conference
Period22/02/17 → …


  • Facebook
  • Social Networking Sites
  • Research tool
  • Lurking
  • Observational Research


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