Contraception in Social Media - a Communication Science Analysis

Background of the Research Project

Information about contraception and access to family planning methods are considered key sexual and reproductive health and sexual and reproductive human rights issues (e.g., IPPF Declaration of Sexual Rights of 2008; WAS Declaration of Sexual Rights of 2014). This is because unplanned and unwanted pregnancies - as well as the fear of them - place multiple and significant burdens on the health of girls* and women* in particular.

Communication about contraceptive methods takes place in different contexts (e.g. family, school, doctor's office, peer group, couple relationship) and through different media (e.g. mass media, social media).

Social media has proven to be very influential in the field of health communication in recent years. Adolescents and adults now often turn to online media first when they have questions about contraception.

There is a lot of useful and quality information about contraception on social media. However, there are also information gaps and errors (misinformation) as well as deliberately spread misinformation (disinformation, "fake news"). Last but not least, social media communication about contraceptive methods is also influenced by zeitgeist trends (e.g. current trend of very strong criticism of the pill) and product marketing (e.g. marketing of novel contraceptive apps for so-called natural family planning).

 

Project Objectives

The aim of the research project is to systematically work out from a communication science perspective how different contraceptive methods are presented and discussed on central social media platforms in German-speaking countries. In addition, the quality of information is to be evaluated.

The contraceptive methods studied include all 15 methods that are also covered on the educational website Familienplanung.de of the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) (https://www.familienplanung.de/verhuetung/verhuetungsmethoden/) in Germany:

  1. Pill
  2. Mini pill
  3. Condom
  4. Female condom
  5. Diaphragm
  6. Hormone coil
  7. Hormone sticks
  8. Contraceptive patch
  9. FemCap
  10. Three-month injection
  11. Copper IUD
  12. Coitus interruptus and other unsafe methods
  13. Vaginal ring
  14. Symptothermal method (so-called natural family planning NFP)
  15. Sterilization
 

Four social media platforms are in focus:

  1. Wikipedia
    (Relevance: Wikipedia entries usually appear among the first hits in Google searches).
  2. YouTube
    (Relevance: Most-used social media platform worldwide)
  3. Instagram
    (Relevance: In Germany, second most used social media platform among young people behind YouTube).
  4. TikTok
    (Relevance: Social media platform with the highest growth rates worldwide)
 

Research Methods

Four different research methods are used in the project:

  1. Qualitative content analyses of social media posts and comments.
  2. Quantitative content analyses of social media posts and comments
  3. Quality analyses of social media posts (in collaboration with a medical expert)
  4. Qualitative interviews with young social media users.
 

Expected Gain of Knowledge

Well-founded knowledge about how contraceptive methods are presented and discussed in social media in German-speaking countries today closes a scientific research gap.

In addition, the findings are relevant to practice, because they help professional sexuality education to a) pick up their target groups where they are in the current social media discourse and b) develop and disseminate their own social media education materials in a targeted manner.

 

Project Funding

The project is funded by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA).

 

Project Duration

2021-2022