Feasibility of Using Social Networking Technologies for Health Research Among Men Who Have Sex With Men: A Mixed Methods Study.

Published: February 12, 2013

Abstract

This study aims to assess the feasibility and acceptability of using social networking as a health research platform among men who have sex with men (MSM). Fifty-five MSM (primarily African American and Latino) were invited to join a "secret" group on the social networking website, Facebook. Peer leaders, trained in health education, posted health-related content to groups. The study and analysis used mixed (qualitative and quantitative) methods. Facebook conversations were thematically analyzed. Latino and African American participants voluntarily used social networking to discuss health-related knowledge and personal topics (exercise, nutrition, mental health, disease prevention, and substance abuse) with other group participants (N = 564 excerpts). Although Latinos comprised 60% of the sample and African Americans 25.5%, Latinos contributed 82% of conversations and African Americans contributed only 15% of all conversations. Twenty-four percent of posts from Latinos and 7% of posts from African Americans were related to health topics. Results suggest that Facebook is an acceptable and engaging platform for facilitating and documenting health discussions for mixed methods research among MSM. An understanding of population differences is needed for crafting effective online social health interventions.

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