Facebook has become a significant part of daily life for nearly 1.4 billion people worldwide. While many researchers have explored Facebook’s influence on individuals and societies, its potential as a powerful research tool has been largely overlooked.
Access to the large and diverse samples offered by Facebook could help to address a major challenge in social science: its overreliance on samples that are relatively small, student and WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic). Furthermore, Facebook can be used to circumvent the limitations of self-reports and laboratory-based studies by providing access to records of actual behavior expressed in a natural environment.
In this article, we review the opportunities and challenges of Facebook research; provide a number of practical recommendations for effectively conducting research within this environment; and discuss several ethical considerations. We hope to convince the reader that using Facebook in research generally produces robust results and can be as easy as posting an advertisement on Facebook or adding a “Log in with Facebook” button to an online survey.