Facebook stats from students?

Whether I like it or not, a lot of my research will be based in and around the connections made on Facebook. It is important to get a sense of how students are using social networks. After a quick google search I stumbled upon WolphramAlpha’s Facebook analytics app. This very simple app asks for permission to access your Facebook information and after a few seconds it outputs graphs, stats and maps to represent your interactions on Facebook.

Could this be useful in my research? In short, NO! Or at least I don’t think it is viable. It would be amazing if with every completed survey I receive, a pretty little print out of the participant’s Facebook interactions could be attached. The main issue with this idea is that of privacy. Where are the boundaries of what is acceptable to ask from students? I know that a lot of the students I teach would quite happily give up this information but I believe I would be taking advantage of my position within theĀ institutionĀ if I asked them to. Another massive issue with using WolphramAlpha to collect Facebook stats is the technical logistics. The only easy way to get the print out of the stats as a file is to sign up as an advanced wolfram user, which isn’t free. I ended up using a browser screen capture plugin for google. I wouldn’t want to rely on students to go through this for the data I need.

Here is my print out:

My WolphramAlpha stats print out