But Facebook recently began integrating a better search function that, under the right circumstances- could make it a potentially more useful source for conducting a certain type of substantive research.
Facebook itself has never been a powerhouse when it comes to integrating an effective search function. In fact, over the years, it has changed, removed features, and done some inexplicable things to its search function that have made it hard to get a handle on what it can do and how to do it.
But I've noticed that recently the search function seems to have stabilized a bit, so that you can search an archive of the words and phrases of the feeds of people and entities you currently receive in your news feed. I'll demonstrate how you can do this a little further down this post.
But what would be the use of this for research purposes? Well, it depends. For me, I personally not only "friend" my family and friends, but also do so for publications, organizations, and authorities in my field whose opinions I respect and who I trust. Therefore, those entities often comment or share links on important topics, and I therefore value their contributions as trusted sources.
So, let's say that I am doing some research on the measles outbreaks and vaccinations. Of course, I will check all the standard print, professional online, and Web based news and information sources, but I may also want a more filtered take from my own trusted Facebook-based sources--what have the journals and people I know and trust been saying or what have they been sharing about this topic.
Here's how. It's quite easy and you can do the same.
The first step wasto enter my search words or phrases in Facebook's standard search box at the top of myhome page, as you can see I've done in the figure above. Facebook then returned all matching pages, events, and people, with images on the left side. But what you want to do to limit your search to an archive of your own personal feed is to click the words next to the little magnifying glass on the bottom of the list. (In this case, Facebook also suggested a plural for vaccine as well).
Once you do this, Facebook will then retrieve past posts from the people and other entities you get your newsfeed that used that term or terms--see this figure below as an example. There you'll see an excerpt of a PBS NewsHour report, a post from a friend of mine who is a well known doctor and public epidemiologist, and below that are posts from other organizations, people, and news organizations I like to read.
Of course this works best if you are already friending the media sites, organizations and people whose views you respect and trust! If you have not done this yet, it's never too late, and help transform Facebook from a fun distraction to a type of customized personal newswire.