The role of social media in shaping perceptions ofphysical disability amongst young people· IntroductionThe reported use of the internet forsocial networking increased to 96% for 16-24 year olds in the UK in 2017(Office for National Statistics, 2017). Therefore,as the influence of social media continues to grow, the formations of attitudesand opinions towards physical disabilities can progressively be understood asbeing shaped by this institution. In this study I propose to examine therepresentations of physical disability on social networking sites and whatinfluence social media have on shaping the opinions of young people.· Literature reviewOliver(1996, p. 22) recognised the “distinction between the physicalimpairment and the social situation, called ‘disability'” thus theunderstanding of the term ‘disability’ often becomes centred around the ideathat those with an impairment are in some way disadvantaged. These socialconceptions are reproduced through social media content, for example, Young (2014,00:03:15) sees that this “lie” is “propogated… via social media” throughwhat she identifies as “inspiration porn” (00:03:56).
This isparticularly prevalent through the emergence of a meme culture on social media,as Liddiard (2014, p.1-2) states “maintain ableist notions” Thefundamental aims of this study are to observe the impact social media contentmay have on opinions of physical disability amongst young people and furtherbuild upon the research carried out in regards to this particular issue in thedigital age.· Research Questions 1. Whatis the image of disability produced by social media? 2.
Whatis the impact of social media on young people’s perceptions of disability inEngland? · Research design and methodologyIintend to adopt the interpretivist theoretical perspective for the datacollection of my research through, first of all, the use of qualitative contentanalysis of social networking sites, followed by semi-structured interviews witha group of 24 participants. According to Krippendorff (1980,p. 21), content analysis as a research method has the “purpose of providingknowledge, a representation of facts, new insights, and a practical guide toaction,” I will therefore be carrying out content analysis ofthe social media sites ‘Instagram’ and ‘Twitter,’ using semiotics to decode themeanings of online posts and responsive comments to such content. Braun and Clarke (2006, p. 13) see that”Inductive analysis is… A process of coding the data without trying to fit it into a pre-existing coding frame, or theresearcher’s analytic preconceptions,” this will be the approach used in myanalysis as the great range of content on these platforms is such that itmay limit me to use pre-existing categories (as is common in the ‘deductive’approach) in order to determine the general image of physical disability thatis produced from online posts.
Bryman (2016, p. 303) also recognises that thereis no “reactive effect” caused by content analysis as those being analysed areunaware that their online comments are being used for research which mayotherwise “threaten…
Validity” (Webb et al, 1966, p. 15) and harm my abilityto form rational judgements.Thesecond method I will be employing upon collecting and categorising the data fromthe content analysis will be semi-structured interviews, specificallyaddressing the second of my research questions. The selection criteria ofparticipants in this study will be: (1) Participants must be between the agesof 15-19 at the time of the interview; (2) Participants must have active userprofiles on either Instagram or Twitter; (3) Participants must be able-bodied.
Theframework will be designed as a guide which covers the following topic areas:· Impact of social media on respondents’ own attitudesor opinions on physical disability.· Respondents’ own experience of representation ofphysical disabilities on social networking sites.Theopportunity to ask non-planned questions allows for the utmost flexibility(Patton, 2002) for both the researcher and the participant if, for example, theindividual requires verbal clarification of what has been said. With one of theprimary focuses of my study being attitudes towards physical disability, semistructured interviews will also be beneficial as I will be able to assess thelanguage used by interviewees, a significant element in gaining insight intotheir values. · LimitationsTheethical considerations when carrying out content analysis and semi-structuredinterviews must be evaluated before I begin my research.
Oneof the ethical issues I must consider before I begin content analysis Firstly,content analysis potentially violates the right to privacy of those producingthe social media content being analysed. Consequently, I must consider thenecessary precautions to be taken in order to prevent the risk of exposure ofindividuals’ identities during data collection, and due to the use of verbatimquotes being published. I will therefore seek informed consent, distributingforms before beginning the interviews, providing information explaining topotential participants what the research is about, what their role will be inthe study and assurance that they may withdraw from the research for anyreason. Furthermore, as it is important that individuals understand thepotential negative implications of their participation, they will be informedthat while names will be omitted, comments made may be published within theresearch findings. Interviewer bias may also be anissue as this involves participants responding with answers they believe theinterviewer wishes to hear, or making comments which seem impressive oracceptable in the disability discourse, which may harm the validity andapplicability of the data. To overcome interviewer bias, telephone interviews,instead of face-to-face interviews as there is a reduced opportunity for theparticipant to be influenced by expressions or body language.
Likewise, such aninterviewing method will be more practical as gaining access to participantsmay be difficult and a suitable time can be more easily negotiated. Dueto the sample population being limited to 24 participants within the 16-24 agerange, in one regional area, my findings can not be generalized to the largeryouth population in England. However, with the sparse research in relation tothe question of the impact of social media on young people’sperceptions of disability in England, this study could provide a foundation toencourage further research to take place. Hermanowicz (2002, p.
498)remarks that “while interviewing is among the most central, revealing andenjoyable methods that one can use in research, it is deceptively difficult”. ConclusionThe proposed study isnecessary in further understanding the extent to which social media impactsindividual opinions on larger issues such as