Besides being a very popular social network, Twitter has become a point of reference for interchanging and diffusion of information and for obtaining content for different actors in public life (general public, journalists, politicians and so on). It is already one of the most important public spaces in which there is a bidirectional communicative scheme, that has the intention of being social and that, therefore, permits a new way of interaction in which ideas are generated and shared through messages of a limited use of characters (tweets) and the labelling of content (hashtag).
The image of the family in Twitter
Well, the image of the family on Twitter is, on the whole, quite positive. According to the results of a study conducted by the social researcher Victor Manuel Pérez Martínez about the image of the family in this social network, it turns out that the family is associated with these social virtues: pietas, friendship, gratitude, justice and liberality. The first of these is pietas, a Latin term that means a perfect relation with the origin and not merely compassion, as its current translation in English would connote (pity).
It is significant that “the contents shared most reflect a positive interchange of meanings about family life, relative to the important moments of the family or special celebrations (Christmas or family parties). A clear intention was identified on the part of the publishers of the tweets for sharing with others the act of living in family”.
As was to be expected, the term family is employed metaphorically as well, extending its semantic field to realities that are not properly the family or projecting its positive characteristics to other realities. This is normal; it is what advertisers do when they represent ideal families to sell products for the home. Some examples of these “extensions” of the family in this social network are: “the users that are followers in Twitter are considered an extension of the family” (56%); “pets are part of the family” (5%), etc.
Among the most common non-metaphorical uses that correspond to the family according to users of Twitter, we find these positive properties: “family as an area of gratuity” (19%), “defense of the family” (12%), “the family as gift” (5%), “the family as a social mediator” (4%), “family as a place of memory or of roots” (2%). Among the negative ones, noticeably less common, one finds “family difficulties” (1.4%), “family with a problem” (0.3%). It is very significant that “family as an area of choice” (where homosexual “marriages” would be included) is limited to a 1.3%.
It is also interesting to note that “the messages with more favorites and retweets were created from personal accounts and it was not the organizations that led the impact on Twitter on the subject of family”.
Methodology of the study
The methodology of the study was developed by the research group Family and Media and concentrated on the analysis of those tweets published in Spanish with the hashtag #familia during the year 2014.
The “cultural and anthropological common places” about the family on the social network Twitter were analyzed. On the basis of the content published with this hashtag, it was examined which were the social virtues linked to the family in the tweets with this label. Ultimately, the intent was to verify whether the content linked with #familia perfect or distort the social virtues related with it.
As obtaining a statistical representative sample was not feasible since the company does not allow to get the total data on its servers that would permit extracting a sample, a framework of sampling was made up of tweets with the greatest impact in Twitter. A non-probabilistic, strategic sample was done and stratified based on the 919,763 tweets that in 2014 (the period of the study) had been published with the hashtag #familia. The effective analysis of each tweet was done over a sample of 3,245 units. In addition to the semantic fields, other variables have been examined: the user profile to determine who promotes the discourse about the family in this social network (individual people, organizations, political parties, communication media, the Catholic Church, other institutions, etc.); country of origin, index of impact (tweets with zero impact were excluded, that is those not marked as favorite nor retweeted by anyone and instead those of the last quartile were selected with respect to the median value most marked or retweeted during each month).
The world of Twitter healthier than that of Hollywood, television or newspapers
The study we are commenting on does not establish comparisons with others that deal with the family in general media like newspapers or tv, but we can establish the conclusion on the basis of experience and other studies that we have published on our portal. The real world that appears in Twitter is healthier, in terms of the image of the family, than the world represented by film, television, and even newspapers. Is it because there are no ideological or commercial filters? Without a doubt, the social networks, although they are not “neutral”, are more social than the traditional media, or at least they represent public opinion better, that is the people’s views.
It is true that the study is limited to those tweets in Spanish. It remains to be seen what happens in other languages and, therefore, other cultures. We hope that the study will be repeated in other languages.