Today, we are pleased to share with you a guest blog by University of Strathclyde PhD student Fatima Alhayan. If you haven’t seen our other COVID impact blogs yet, or would like to catch up with the full series, you can read them here. 

I am in the third year of my PhD studies in the computer and information science programme at the University of Strathclyde.

Health information, specifically information pertaining to dementia, is spreading throughout various social media platforms. This information pertains to lifestyle, commercial products, recipes, herbs and more, which all play a role in an individual developing dementia, as well as impacting on their caregivers.

The views can be posted on social media platforms without specific constraints. Despite different famous social media platforms having their own filtering mechanisms, most of the data still remains unfiltered. These platforms are quite lucrative for promoters and advertising agencies who can benefit from social media bots for promoting their products as well.

Since dementia is a complex domain, it requires a fine-grained evaluation of information from multiple perspectives. My project aims to explore the role of social media platforms with regards to caregivers and garner their attitude towards dementia-related posts.  Knowledge and information generated from this research will help stakeholders (i.e. caregivers, medical doctors, organisations, researchers, etc) to create awareness and mitigate potential misinformation. It can also facilitate forming suitable future strategies.

It is my hope to connect with caregivers (formal and informal) of people with dementia who use social media. However, recruiting participants for my study has not been easy. My targeted users are the caregivers of people with dementia (PWD). Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted my plan to conduct interviews with and gather observations from caregivers or family members of PWD. In order to keep my research timeline as is, I need to propose to my supervisor (Dr. Diane Pennington) that I use another recruitment channel and conduct the study online while working to maintain the quality of the results.

If you are an ECR or student in a field relating to dementia or brain health and would like to write a blog for the SDRC on how COVID has impacted your research, please get in touch.