Facebook is almost ubiquitous. About 1 in 7 people is reportedly on Facebook, which is a staggering number. It also means that it is a place where a huge amount of conversation and sharing takes place and it is one of the easiest ways to find people and contact them. It also means that it is harder to keep the blurring line between personal and professional line clear and many people prefer to actually keep their Facebook entirely personal. (Lupton, 2014) And then of course there are the numerous privacy issues of Facebook. Yet despite all of this, Facebook can still be a tool in your academic practice.
What are the academic uses Facebook can be put to?
- Research: Not only is it possible to find research participants through Facebook (Lupton, 2014), the behaviour people display online and the information they share publicly can also be a source of research data. Not to mention, like Twitter, it can be used to share information with a network of your peers.
- Teaching: Facebook can be used as a class communication platform or a discussion group. An example of the latter is the group Leiden University's Thijs Porck runs for his Old English students. Similarly, seminar groups make their own Facebook groups to inform each other about time table changes, assignments and to further discuss the topics covered in the lectures. In some cases, such interaction seems to positively influence class performance.
- Greater dissemination: Facebook pages can be used to share information about your research, report on your progress, or even ask for input from the public at large.
Being currently the largest player in the social network field, of course Facebook are measured and taken into account to determine altmetric scores. Altmetric.com, the company behind the donut, doesn't count likes, which are highly gameable, but does count public posts, which means posts on people's personal timelines that they've shared publicly without any privacy settings and those shared on pages, which are public by definition. Within the weighted count that altmetric.com uses however, Facebook mentions are weighted relatively lightly. A Facebook mention only has a score contribution of 0.25.
Deborah Lupton (2014) ‘Feeling Better Connected’: Academics’ Use of Social Media. Canberra: News & Media Research Centre, University of Canberra.