A paper I co-authored with Dr Gemma Webster has been published in Information Research. The paper, “Social Media by Proxy: how older adults work within their ‘social networks’ to engage with social media”, is an output from my previous role as a post-doctoral researcher at Edinburgh Napier University. This was a Carnegie Trust-funded research project called “Social media by proxy: Strategies for managing the online profiles of adults with dementia” and the work investigated the lived experiences of people who act as “social media proxies” for older adults.
Information Research is an open-access journal. You can read the paper in full here.
Cite: Webster, G., & Ryan, F. (2023). Social Media by Proxy: how older adults work within their ‘social networks’ to engage with social media. Information Research: An International Electronic Journal, 28(1), 50–77. Retrieved from https://informationr.net/infres/article/view/277
Introduction. This paper reports an exploratory qualitative study investigating the ways in which older adults are supported by social media proxies defined as ‘an individual who uses a social media account for or supports the use of a social media account by another person’.
Method. Interviews, a diary study, and a focus group were conducted to explore the motivations for undertaking a proxy role; formal or informal agreements between proxies and account holders; and collaborative proxy practices that exist between the individuals providing or receiving proxy support.
Analysis. A reflective thematic analysis of all three data sources was undertaken. The coding structure was developed from the interview, diary and focus group guides as a way of categorising the data into themes.
Results. Social media proxy relationships exist, even if proxy roles are not clearly defined, and that older adults engage with their ‘social networks’ to identify proxy support and it is likely that without this support the older adult would be unable to fully access or engage with social media or other online accounts.
Conclusion. This research highlights the need for more in-depth investigations related to social media proxies, especially as the use of social media and other online platforms is increasing steadily across all age groups.
Gemma and I are continuing our work in the area of social media proxies. We hope to have more work to share on these themes moving forward. If you have any questions about this work, or my research in general, please contact me.