If you have been kind enough to find this post through a link on Twitter then you will be aware that I am hoping to carry out some research on the use of Twitter by the police and the impact that this may have on fear of crime in the people that follow them. Let me try and explain the reasons for this as briefly as I can…
Many years of research in psychology have shown than us humans are very much driven in our behaviour by what we think and feel. Our attitudes, beliefs, thoughts and feelings are something that we develop over time, and are processes that are very much influenced by the world around us. None of us exist in a bubble and we tend to form our attitudes and beliefs in one of two key ways: either through the direct experience of an event (seeing it happen or it happening to us), or by what we are told. This is somewhat oversimplifying things but the principle holds true.
So for many of us our understanding of something only comes through what we learn through other people or from what we read, and see, in the many forms of media that surround us. One example of this would be what we think about, and feel about, the issue of crime. If we have been unfortunate enough to be a victim of crime then this will clearly impact on what we feel about it. Obviously even among people who have never been victims of crime the generally held view of it is still negative. That said, people will still vary in terms of how much they feel at risk of crime and the fear they have of becoming a victim of it.
Essentially then these variable beliefs and attitudes that people hold about crime related issues can impact on people in a number of ways. They may, for example, influence their behaviour, making them worried about going to certain places or out at certain times. They will also impact on other thoughts that they have, for example those that relate to their feelings of safety and security, all of which feed into feelings of well-being.
We are also all influenced, to varying degrees, by how much information we receive about a certain issue. Repeated exposure to information can affect us in different ways. In certain circumstances it lead us to become de-sensitised to something, in others it may m ake us more anxious or worried. Again, I’m over-simplifying here but this can be the case.
So, psychology lesson over. The key issue here is that police officers are increasingly using twitter to share information with other officers and the public. There are two key things that interest me here and that I’d like your help in researching. Firstly how is twitter used by the police? I’d like to ask officers to help me with a questionnaire that will examine the ways this is used and the kinds of information that is shared.
Secondly, how does this impact on the levels of fear, and perceived risk, of crime in those that read this information? For this I will use another set of measures to examine these factors in people who follow the police on twitter and compare this with others who may not. I realise that this is only one way in which we are exposed to crime information and will designing the study to take these factors into account. Overall I’d like to answer questions such as whether followers feel re-assured by the information they receive or whether it increases their anxiety.
There is still a way to go in terms of getting the project up and running as it is a complex undertaking to do this through the internet. However I am working on online questionnaires that will, hopefully, be ready quite soon and will publish links to these as soon as I can. I will also update progress on here as often as needed!
I hope that this has helped clarify things and that it you are a tweeing police officer, or someone who follows one (or more) that you be willing to take part. Many thanks for reading!