1). Please tell us a little about yourself
I’m Melody Taba, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.
I’ve always been interested in digital media, in particular online spaces like social media platforms. As a teenager, I remember excitedly signing up to Myspace (despite being younger than their required age), observing the ways people I knew “in real life” presented themselves in the digital space, meticulously curating my own online identity and profile using HTML code!
Later in life, I went on to analyse social media phenomena officially and completed my Honours research on the way relationships portrayed online can influence young people’s perceptions of healthy relationships. Being in this field, I quickly realised how complex social media’s influence can be on an individual’s health and wellbeing, especially during a significant developmental period like adolescence. I pursed a Master of Public Health degree to further understand this interplay whilst doing research assistant work on adolescent health projects.
I’m now completing my PhD at the Sydney Health Literacy Lab, a research group at the School of Public Health, where I’m investigating social media health communication to young people.
2). What is your research on?
My PhD project was borne out of the COVID-19 pandemic and spending lots of time on social media myself. Besides copious amounts of health misinformation, I also saw health authorities using interesting strategies to communicate important health messages to the public. My PhD aims to evaluate the way these health messages are communicated to young people on social media during health emergencies like COVID-19 and specifically how health communicators can improve messaging to be youth-centred and youth-friendly.
3). What are the real world consequences of your research?
Findings from my PhD research could optimise the way we, as public health professionals, use social media to target young people with health messages during times of health emergencies. Young people are big social media users and improving health communication on social media is imperative to improve the overall health and wellbeing of this priority group.
An aim of my research is to develop recommendations for future health communication targeting young people, and provide health communicators with tangible examples of what young people want and need in this communication. Using co-design, we can develop youth-centred communication that not only meets their needs but also appeals to them.
4). What does digital health mean to you?
Digital health is an all-encompassing term capturing any electronic or digital media that aims to improve health and wellbeing outcomes. Being part of the Digital Health and Informatics Network has certainly opened my eyes to the wide array of projects, disciplines and ideas that all contribute to this common aim.
5). Do you have any resources or links you would like to share?
I found this D’Souza et al. article A Proposed Approach for Conducting Studies That Use Data From Social Media Platforms to be very useful for public health focussed social media research methods: https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(21)00154-3/fulltext
Abidin and Kaye’s TikTok Syllabus has all the required readings on TikTok for social media researchers: https://tiktokcultures.com/syllabus2021/
A few examples of science communicators who deliver health promotional messages in unique ways on social media:
I Am SciComm (Twitter): https://twitter.com/iamscicomm
Let’s Talk SciComm (Twitter/podcast): https://twitter.com/letstalkscicomm?lang=en
Lab Muffin Beauty Science (Youtube): https://www.youtube.com/c/LabMuffinBeautyScience
Science with Lottie (Insta): https://www.instagram.com/sciencewithlottie/
Dr Asher Williams (TikTok): https://www.tiktok.com/@dr_asherwilliams
Dr Neuro (Twitch): https://www.twitch.tv/dr_neuro
Connect with Melody!
You can email Melody at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @MelodyTaba