We are now in the final stretch of our research, and our focus has shifted from the preliminary stages of planning to the real grind of preparation. We have now been approved by the International Review Board and have formulated questions which both effectively gather the necessary information while retaining the ethical boundaries and respect for our participants. Professor Gosnell and I have decided to focus our topic of provisional support via social media to a few more specific topics. These include memory and retention of support provision as well as an interactive component which will allow participants to further delve into their own, personal experience with support provision and how they may be effected by it. In a further step Dr. Gosnell and I have considered the concept of an interactive component in which students will have the opportunity to participate in a theoretical posting which they can provide support for in real time. This will allow participants to evaluate how they might react when prompted to provide support over an online forum. We have narrowed our studies to focus most specifically on Facebook, which is most frequently used to address social or emotional topics, and additionally included a few prompts about the use of Instagram, which has quickly become one of the most used platforms for digital exchange.
The biggest challenge that Dr. Gosnell and I have been faced with is maintaining focus on the important aspects of our research rather than becoming more vague, but widely inclusive. This was a concept I struggled with as there was so much to explore on this topic since so little research has been carried out before. Past research has richly explored the concept of support, but only in the ways in which it effected those receiving support and the concept of capitalization. This method of study will allow us to further understand the way in which we as people are affected by the support we provide. I am very much looking forward to further analyzing the effects of support provision hands-on. We plan to begin running our participant sessions within the next week, which will allow us time to make any minor tweaks and changes necessary to collect the most applicable data possible.
In the weeks since my last blog post, Dr. Gosnell and I have made several amendments to our original research plan. Currently, much of our time has been focused on a study we began in the Spring of 2018 which focused on the effects of interpersonal experience. During the “in lab” portion of this study two participants are invited to take an online survey assessing the participants initial mood. After the survey, the participants take part in two interactive conversations. The first conversation focuses on an impersonal topic, and the participants are expected to maintain the conversation for three minutes. The second conversation requires one of the participants to share a personal experience and for the second participant to relate to their partner, offering support or asking follow up questions. This conversation is then coded based upon the participant’s conversation; their world count, word choice and general participation are all accounted for.
This study serves as a basis for our Spring 2019 study. We are currently proposing a study based on the effects of support provision via social media, specifically Facebook. Similarly to our Spring & Fall study, students will have the opportunity to provide support “in the moment.” Where the new project differs is its focus on memory and retention of prior support that is both shared and received. Facebook, in addition to other social media, serves as an archive of shared information. Ultimately, Facebook serves as a sort of repository for information sharing and the exchange of support. This will allow us to track the effects of provisional support over a period of time, rather than just assessing the support provided during one, hypothetical conversation.
Dr. Gosnell and I communicate each day via email, meeting in person every few weeks to discuss progress made on the IRB proposal. This coming January Dr. Gosnell and I will meet weekly to narrow the focus of our study and enumerate the in-lab portion of the study. Thus far, communication has been one of the most necessary steps in making continuous progress in this study. We plan to continue to revitalize this study to incorporate any additional stimulus, while narrowing the scope to allow for a more concentrated area of focus and to accrue specific and valid information.
Over the coming 2018-19 year, Dr. Gosnell and I will be focusing on a new project titled “Effects of Providing Support via Social Media Platforms.” The purpose of our study is to potentially add to the relatively limited work on social support provision performed thus far. We intend to explore the impacts of providing support on social media platforms, specifically Facebook. As social media is becoming one of the primary methods of both general communication and event sharing, it is only more critical that we examine the support processes that exist exclusively on social media. This project contributes to several important new areas of research, including work exploring differences in positive and negative event support, work highlighting the effects of social support on the providers of support, as well as work exploring the way in which social support is playing out via social media. This study presents a critical lens as it will be amongst the first to evaluate the provision of support via Facebook and furthermore to examine the additional factors of provision on well-being.
It is our intent to have an “in-lab” component of the study in which the participant will be invited to participate in either a simulated hypothetical or else an authentic scenario. Here, the participant may provide support “in the moment”, but also grant us the opportunity to assess the degree to which people retain and remember their own shared support over time. This study will enable us to assess the participants memory for shared support of both positive and negative events on Facebook. Additionally, this study will examine the effects of support provision on general well-being. It is our prediction that individuals who put forth the most enthusiastic support (such as a positive comment following a positive social media posting rather than a “like”) will benefit the most. This study will allow us to ultimately explore the more detailed aspects of supportive messages (word count, word choice) to better understand how communication of support via social media platforms influences the support provider.