Local Facebook groups in times of the pandemic. : Mixed methods analysis of COVID-19 related content within the public Facebook group “Lappis”.

University essay from Malmö universitet/Institutionen för konst, kultur och kommunikation (K3)

Abstract: In times of the pandemic, Facebook has become a virtual space that through e.g.“coronavirus support groups” (Harris, 2020), partially substitutes social interactions and allows its users to better cope with the isolation and social distancing. A public Facebook group “Lappis” established in 2006 is a space facilitating communication for the local community of the biggest student housing in Stockholm “Stora Lappkärrsberget”. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, Covid-related postings started to emerge in the group’s forum. The study examines Covid-related content in order to define the function of the group through describing the forms of communication around the pandemic, i.e. the themes, the scope and the ways the content is conveyed. In doing so, the model combining the uses and gratifications theory and the theory of affordances is applied, allowing to investigate the motivations and interactivity of the members through Facebook group affordances. In order to encompass the puzzle from multiple angles, an adaptive approach of mixed methods is used by combining: qualitative content analysis and survey. Key finding of the research is that the Covid-related content is a minor part of the content shared in the group, yet that it provokes extensive discussions among the members with both “aggressive” and “unaggressive” responses. Furthermore, it is argued that the group has potential to be a coronavirus support group (Harris, 2020) and a substitute for interpersonal communication (Papacharissi & Mendelson, 2011). Finally, the study identifies possibilities for future research in the further examination of local Facebook groups in the context of pandemic, in order to map the possible changes in Facebook affordances that would lead to higher reliability of those groups as spaces for sharing Covid-related content.

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