By Lisa Hynes
OK, to be honest, I have been known to neglect my various social media accounts for weeks and months on end, receiving frequent reminders to come back and check out my updates, what I’ve missed, and what’s popular right now! I’ll even admit to being a bit proud of my lack of engagement in social media, and ignoring these pleas to get back in the loop.
Last week I launched my first website www.yourdiabetesclinic.wordpress.com, as part of my first attempt at online recruitment for the final study in my PhD. The study involves a questionnaire which asks young adults who are living with type 1 diabetes about a range of topics related to their diabetes, the main focus being experiences with and views of their diabetes clinic (Does this study sound like something you or anyone you know would be interested in?? Please check out our website and share widely www.yourdiabetesclinic.wordpress.com!!).
I opted for online recruitment for this study because I hoped that this would be an efficient way to collect data from a large group of people, and because I hoped to recruit people from all over Ireland, and from outside Ireland. Four days into this process and I have come to a few unexpected realisations that I would like to share with you: researchers, friends, and people with chronic conditions.
Social networks bring us full circle
Social networking often gets criticised for separating and isolating us, rather than connecting us in any real way. The experience of sending something out into the world through social media and following its progress through notifications, news feeds, likes and follows has totally changed my opinion. Despite being electronic, and yes, isolated in a physical sense, social networks enable a kind of organic sharing which is a product of our progress, not a barrier to integration and togetherness. Recruiting people online to take part in my study has made me feel more, not less connect to people, including my friends who have kindly shared my links, and interested strangers.
Online recruitment is so much more than recruitment
At a CREATE workshop before the European Health Psychology Society conference in Innsbruck last August Dr Sherry Pagoto and Dr Kristin Schneider taught us about using social media to share your research, connect with a professional network and actually conduct research. Only 4 days into the recruitment for this study and I finally get it!
By developing a network of people likely to be interested in your research (researchers, health care professionals and people with type 1 diabetes, in my case) you can bring your research straight to them without moving from your desk. The knock on effect is that you have an efficient and interactive way to share your findings with people who take part in your research, and a network of people who are likely to share things you are interested in and who may contribute to your developing research ideas in the future.
Watching the numbers of completed questionnaires rise ever day provides huge motivation to come up with creative ways to share and engage online to keep the momentum going and reach my target number of participants.
I am interested in recruiting people with type 1 diabetes for this study, but I shared the study information through all sorts of people. This has provided a great opportunity to answer some questions and spread awareness about type 1 diabetes, what it is and what it means for people living with it.
Designate, don’t procrastinate
A big barrier to engaging with social media is finding the time. In the same way that you check and respond to e-mails for a limited amount of time per day, you can designate time, even every other day, to build and use your presence online. If you want to get something out of social networking, whether that is information or connections, your network must reflect that. I have certainly found that building up a network is worth the time and energy. Sharing and retweeting posts from other people as well as contributing information likely to be useful to your network results in a ready to go resource. There’s a fine line between working and work-like procrastination, designate your time, like with any other task!
I have enjoyed this process of recruiting more than I have for any other project I have been involved in, and far more than I expected. More importantly though, I will have more to show for it than data alone (although I am very appreciative of and excited about the data too!)! I would love to hear about the experiences of others who have conducted research online, or indeed participated in research online!
Thanks so much to all those who have taken part in my study so far, as well as the people who have shared, liked, tweeted and retweeted the study!
Interested? Here’s the link again!! www.yourdiabetesclinic.wordpress.com