Can we use Social Media as a research tool to capture daily life experiences of young people with chronic pain?

This week’s EBN Twitter Chat on Wednesday 4th April between 8-9 pm (UK time) is being led by Line Caes (@LineCaes), Unviersity of Stirling and Abbie Jones (@abbiejones86), PhD student at the University of Bath. This Blog provides some context for the Chat. You can contribute to the chat by adding #ebnjc to your tweets.

As individuals move into adolescence and into young adulthood, they are faced with many physical, cognitive, emotional, and social changes.  These changes are often accompanied by extra responsibilities for young people such as developing their identity, making independent decisions, becoming autonomous, (Viner & Christie, 2005). The experience of chronic pain in young people can have a harmful impact on this developmental progress, such as becoming independent from their parents and develop skills to maintain friendship. Although we have some evidence that young people with chronic pain experience a sense of feeling behind in their development compared to their healthy peers (Eccleston et al., 2008), little is known about this this manifests in their everyday lives.

To gain a better insight into these daily life experiences it is important to acknowledge that with the development of smart phones and tablets, young people spend a substantial amount of their time communicating online. Research has shown that young people are highly competent and stand out for their usage of social media(Smith & Anderson, 2018)  While Facebook is still the most popular platform for adults, YouTube is the most popular platform amongst young people (used by 94%), followed by Facebook (used by 80%), Snapchat (used by 78%) and Instagram (used by 71%). Twitter seem to be the least popular platform amongst young people (used by 45%). Young people are also notable in terms of their frequency of use of these platforms, especially Snapchat and Instagram. Of the young people using these platforms, around 80% use them daily – 71% use Snapchat and 55% use Instagram multiple times a day (Smith & Anderson, 2018). Given that young people typically report reduced face-to-face contact with peers due to their pain experiences (Fales & Forgeron, 2014), this population might use social media more heavily to maintain their social contacts.

There is a mismatch however, between the heavy use of social media in young people’s daily life and the standard research methods we use to understand their daily life experiences (Caes & Jordan, 2017). Hence, in a longitudinal study we are aiming to more actively use people’s social media presence to gain deeper insight into their development progress deposit experiencing chronic pain. Using social media posts as a data collection tool is a relatively new research method with minimal guidance available. Through this Twitter chat we aim to gather the experiences of others in terms of using social media as a data collection tool and learn about how to identify optimal strategies for their use in research and pitfalls to avoid.


  1. How do young people use social media?
  2. What are your thoughts about how we can use social media as a tool for naturalistic data collection?
  3. What type of daily life experiences would be captured using social media compared that is not possible to capture by using more traditional face to face data collection methods (e.g. interviews)?
  4. What would be the ethical and/or practical issues with using social media as a research tool?
  5. Which social media tool would lend itself best for data collection for young people?
  6. What type of information should we provide participants in terms of instructions?


Caes, L., & Jordan, A. (2017). The pain of youth. The Psychologist, 30, 24-27.

Eccleston, C., Wastell, S., Crombez, G., & Jordan, A. (2008). Adolescent social development and chronic pain. European Journal of Pain, 12(6), 765-774.

Fales, J. & Forgeron, P. (2014). The importance of friendships in youth with chronic pain. Pediatric Pain Letter, 16(3), 35–39.

Smith A., & Anderson, M. (2018). Social Media use in 2018. Pew Research Centre. Available at: [Accessed 28/03/18]

Viner, R., & Christies, D. (2005). ABC of adolescence: Adolescent development. British Medical Journal, 330(7486), 301-304.

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