For those interested, I’m pursuing a doctorate degree in public health – specifically in Social and Behavioral Sciences. While multifaceted, most of my interests lay at the intersection between public health, social media and health disparities. I currently focus many of my research efforts on Latino cancer health disparities and how to communicate with these populations about cancer control and prevention using social media platforms. Some of this stems from my previous work as a community health educator and seeing how social media not only has the potential to empower communities to impact their health, but also how it is a vehicle to inevitably spread misinformation about a myriad of topics.
With that in mind, my dissertation research focuses on understanding how Latinos engage with cancer information on social media platforms – particularly Facebook, since 8 out of 10 Latinos use this platform. Yet, I wanted to take a different approach to understanding engagement with messages, as many studies look at social media from a big data perspective: How many Likes? How many comments? How many Shares? While important, this is only part of the picture. Engagement can take many forms: you may not Like a video you see on Facebook, but you watched it and did something because of the information you learned. Or, perhaps you Like a post about cancer because you support the cause, which then triggers you to follow cancer Groups that share additional (mis)information. But, the thing is, to truly understand how people engage, you need to ask them… Thus, enters qualitative research and my intent to delve into understanding the connections people have with those behind the post. For my research, I’m sitting down with people to discuss their interactions with cancer information on Facebook, face-to-face. What do they engage with? How do they verify the credibility of the information they engage with? And, do they do anything else with that information – either online of offline?