Reflecting on Research

After weeks of sweat, tears and high levels of caffeine, I have finally reached the end of my research project: male behaviour on Instagram. To get to this point, was honestly quite a struggle. In the two years of being at university, I was most worried and unsure with this assignment. First, because I haven’t done a research project before. Second, because I kept feeling like I was not doing as well as I should be. I constantly felt like I did not know the answers, or I was not going to get any results. Thankfully, in the end I did – here is my reflection on how I got there.

At the very start of this journey, I already had to learn to adapt. My initial idea was too broad, so I scoped it down to a smaller scale: men and their relationship with Instagram. After publishing my survey online, I was hopeful. I had interesting questions and I was ready to analyse the answers. Days went by, but my response level stayed at a grand total of eleven respondents. At this point, I was biting my lip and vigorously picking at my nails every time I opened Google forms.

In hindsight, there were many ways I could’ve approached this situation calmly instead of letting my brain turn into a mess. One of the key aspects in any research project is flexibility. It is so important to be able to tolerate unclear or ambiguous situations. Duncan (2013) states, dealing with ambiguity “requires relinquishing control – even though a solution isn’t always guaranteed – to make room for new and emerging connections to crystalize into a clear direction.” I was so caught up, thinking I had somehow failed (before I could even get started) I forgot to consider alternate options. And that maybe I didn’t fail – I just needed a new direction.

Miriam Giguere says it is important to be able to value uncertainty and not knowing as it leads us to more creative solutions (Tedx Talks, 2014). It took me awhile to apply this to my own research, but when I did, I got outcomes. I spoke to my tutor, Kate Bowles, who suggested looking at interviews as a research method. Initially, I was worried because I didn’t know if I could get enough information for a report. After carrying out the interviews, I found it was far more insightful hearing the candidates talk about their experience using Instagram, as opposed to just looking at responses from a survey.

This also meant that I had to approach my research differently. I am no longer simply collecting data to present. I am presenting the narratives of two different individuals.

The key thing I have to consider: how to be ethical and not misrepresent any of the interview candidates. As a researcher you have a duty to respect those who have agreed to be part of your work.

As my main source of data came directly from interviews, I needed to make sure I convey the responses of those candidates in an ethical manner. In a report on doing research into female incarceration, the author states she wants her “research sensitive to individual participants and research context,” (Tilley, 1998, p.317). While hers was a much broader issue with more complexity involved, it was important to consider this in my research as well.

I was a female doing research into male behaviour on Instagram. I own an Instagram account and have my own views and relationship with the platform. Both interview candidates were aware of this. It is important to consider that this might factor into the way they answered some of the interview questions. Would they be comfortable saying anything that deviates from the norm of how males behave on Instagram? If they did think anything different, would they express it to someone from a different social demographic to them? Even with these questions in mind, I decided to take their answers for what it is. This is the information they have consented to sharing with me, a researcher – this is the information that I’ll use.

At the end of the day, the presentation of that data depends on me. The key thing here is “when I analysed transcripts, themes I was able to imagine emerged, whereas others remained unearthed,” (Tilly, 1998, p.325). The information presented was what I saw in the transcripts, I decided what stayed, what didn’t. I decided on which quotes to use. The way to handle this power imbalance, as suggested in Tilly’s report, was to go back to your candidates and show them your findings. This is exactly what I did. I sent screenshots of my findings from their interview, making sure they agreed to being represented that way. As a researcher, I learnt it is vital to maintain a good relationship with your candidates and to respect the information they give you.

I learnt so much from this project: about conducting research and about myself – as a person, student and researcher.

Keep an eye out on this blog for the finalised results of this research.

 

References

Dugan, M. ‘Tolerating Ambiguity’ Know Innovation, weblog post, viewed 5 June 2017 <http://knowinnovation.com/2013/04/tolerating-ambiguity/>

Tedx Talks, 2014. Tolerating ambiguity — being OK with not knowing! | Miriam Giguere | TEDxSoleburySchool, online video, 16 June, viewed 5 June 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ0tS2vBEIA&feature=youtu.be>

Tilley, S.A. 1998 ‘Conducting Respectful Research: A Critique of Practice’ Canadian Journal of Education, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 316-328

 

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Men & Instagram: An Update on My Research Project

A month ago, I decided I was going to take up a research project on the validations we get from posting things on social media. I did my preliminary research on Instagram and how that might effect self-esteem and the way we portray ourselves.

One thing I found really interesting was that almost all the articles or research I read were specifically geared towards females. According to Omnicore, 68% of users on Instagram are female. It isn’t too surprising that Instagram is a female dominated platform, from the numerous beauty/fashion products using Instagram as a marketing tool to the various forms of diverse makeup promoting positive body image and self love. Rachel Simmons, author and researchersays females have always been told that they will be valued for their appearance. Instagram is a platform for them to get that validation especially because of societal expectations on women. However, that is not what I’m going into now. There are many articles and research done into this that shed some light on the complexities of Instagram and it’s relationship with females.

What was interesting to me was that when I did look into how men used Instagram, most of what I found was just people making parodies of how females treat Instagram. There are things like this video on Instagram Husbands and this article called “What if Guys Acted Like Girls on Instagram

There was a lack in any kind of information on how men interacted with Instagram, why they do or do not have an account, if it makes a difference to the way they view themselves and the effects on their self-esteem. Aaron Barksdale, in this article says male body image issues are dismissed as a non-issue for ‘real men’.

There are a lot of factors and societal norms to consider in this instance. There are also different intersections to consider such as race, sexuality and gender identity. However, I think my first line of research would be a short survey to find out broadly what men think about using Instagram and if they care about how they come across on the platform.

If you want to check out or take part in this survey, you can do so here: https://goo.gl/forms/Sp7gPo8qm1BpbK0o1

 

The more likes, the merrier the person

I watched an episode of Black Mirror recently. In this episode, we lived in a world where our value/currency was determined by our online ratings. The more 5 stars others gave our pictures, our statuses and even our interaction with them in real life, got us a higher average rating. In this world, the ‘richest’ people were those who had an average rating higher than 4.5. The jobs we could get was also based on our ratings, for a better career we required a higher average rating. This episode really struck out to me because I felt like this was a reality we could be heading towards and are partially in.

A lot of us care so much about the reception towards what we post online. People always want more likes/retweets. In this era creating a viral video is something we want to achieve, for some, by any means possible. I remember friends telling me in high school that the optimal time to post photos on Instagram is between 8-9pm on Fridays and between 3-4pm on weekends to ensure more likes.

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(Source: vanitybuzz.com)

This made me ask myself; How much do we value the validation we get from social media? So I decided why not base my research around this question. I’m so curious to know the extent to which we care about social media posts. Does it affect our mood if there isn’t enough likes? How does the number of likes we get affect our self-esteem? Do we change parts of our personality because we know it’ll get more likes or views? In an era where a large part of our identity is portrayed in the online sphere, it’s important to know how this change in our way of life impacts the way we build our character.

 

In order to get the information for my project I will mainly be conducting interviews and focus groups with different people as well as publishing an online survey for general public opinion. As secondary research, I will also look at journal articles and public data online to help me broaden my understanding of the role social media plays in validating people’s thoughts, pictures, comments etc.

Social media has been a huge part of my life, especially throughout my developmental years. I used to struggled when it came to not having that many friends on Facebook or not getting a lot of Instagram likes. I think this project would be a great chance for me to look at how others that use social media deal with their need for validation. I am also aware of my biases and personal opinions on this topic so I shall do my best to avoid it from affecting this research project.

Overall, I am very excited to embark on this research project that will hopefully dissect our behaviour on social media.

Curiosity killed internalised hate and the protection of ignorance

Curiosity is such a loaded word. The very concept of it seeps into our lives in many aspects, through many different avenues from the moment our brain can conceptualise things.

John Ruskin says “Curiosity is a gift, a capacity of pleasure in knowing (1819).” We take pleasure in having the agency to choose what we want to know. That’s why online media is such a powerful thing in this era, because that’s where people turn to when they are curious. From youtube tutorials, to wikipedia pages and discussion forums. It has the capacity to satisfy your curiosity over anything.

For me, one of the ways my curiosity manifested and had such a profound impact on my life was when I started to question the things I always assumed were true. Growing up, I was exposed to things based on how it was in my community. The things I believed were shaped by people around me or the things that were said on TV.

I lived in a very asian community but grew up watching Western media and tv shows. I grew up believing fairer skin was always better and if you didn’t fit specific beauty standards you would just have to loose out in some aspects of life, that speaking english automatically meant you were smarter then those who didn’t, that anything western was assumed to be the better way of doing things. These beliefs were further cemented because everyone around me thought the same things or if they thought different they never mentioned anything to me. I had a very narrow world view.

It wasn’t till I was much older, around 16, when I decided to re-think these beliefs. It wasn’t till I started using more social media and hearing all these different opinions and I started making friends who didn’t think the same way I do. It wasn’t till then that I was actually curious about things like beauty standards, cultural differences and the way life was for people in different social groups.

This curiosity led to late nights watching youtube videos, reading articles online and reading about people’s opinions through tumblr text posts. It was such a revelation to me to learn about the way we can sometimes be thought to hate ourselves or hate other social groups because there is a dominant narrative in society that no one wanted to question.

With this curiosity however came the destruction of the blissful bubble I used to live in. I heard racist, sexist, ignorant comments coming from friends, family, celebrities I admired. The protection ignorance gave me was shattered because now, knowing what I do, I wasn’t going to allow the people I care about to make such statements. The thing is, it’s a lot harder to get people to listen to your thoughts if they didn’t already want to.

It made things harder but it also made things better because I learnt so much. I learnt why people say what they do, how they end up with certain beliefs, how I can help change minds and how I can be an ally to many people who don’t have a platform to voice their thoughts in society (one of the reasons I decided on doing a degree in media).

We don’t get to choose to the environment we grow up in and the things we are thought but I think that’s where curiosity has a huge role in our life. The curiosity you have has the ability to change the way you look at yourself, the way you look at the world and the way you choose to live your life.