July 28 2011
Mentor: Megan Moreno, M.D., M.S.Ed., M.P.H.
Background: Social networking sites (SNS) are greatly being used as ways of communication amongst our youth today; this allows global interaction among a variety of people. Facebook is a popular SNS used by greater than 94% of college students. Created by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, it has now reached an ultimate high of 750 million active users in 2011. The Facebook users create profiles with photos, lists of personal interests, contact information and other personal information. These users communicate with their friends through public and private messages or even online chatting. The objective of this aim is to determine the predictive value of substance use references on Facebook utilizing a longitudinal, 4 year study design with an inception of a cohort of college freshman at 3 universities.
Methods: We selected about one thousand students who are starting college at Northwestern University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and University of Washington at Seattle in 2011 and invited them to participate in the four year study. A total of 12 interviews will be conducted over the duration of the study, 3 each for 4 years. Once each participant has consented, and the interview is completed the information is placed in a highly secure database entitled “Filemaker”. Each participant must accept a research team member’s friendship on Facebook, in which we can code for substance use on the profile. The goal of this research project is to better understand how college students use Facebook, particularly what messages students see about health and substance use.
Results: Currently we are still within our Recruitment phase, in which we must gain our participants for the study. Approximately 130 interviews have been conducted and placed within our Filemaker database. Depending on each college campus, the trend in interview completion will vary. Also depending on the age of the participant, the interviews are pending until either after 18th birthday or parental consent of underage participants.