Transitioning (on the) Internet: Shifting Challenges and Contradictions of Ethics of Studying Online Gender Transition Narratives. By: Chojnicka, Joanna. 2024. Qualitative Sociology Review. Vol. 20 Issue 1, p60-80.

The use of social media in qualitative research has become extremely popular. YouTube, in particular, has attracted attention from scholars working on (self-)representation of minority groups, including the transgender community (e.g., Dame 2013; Horak 2014). Most academic disciplines, however, have been slow in responding to the increasingly challenging nature of social media in terms of their ethics and methodologies. For example, there is a common misconception that any publicly available YouTube videos can be freely used for research. Many studies openly reference the YouTube channels they discuss (Wotanis and McMillan 2014) or anonymize data, but do not seek informed consent from creators (Raun 2020). What is more, researchers rarely reflect on how their work could impact the communities under study or the way creators use social media (Leonelli et al. 2021). At the same time, researchers wishing to protect vulnerable communities may find themselves falling short of FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and re-usable) research principles required by funders. In this contribution, I discuss these and other challenges using, as a casestudy, my project, which investigates gender transition narratives on Polish social media. I wish to show that there is no one-fits-all approach to the ethics of social media studies–as the very nature of social media is in constant flux–and call for attentiveness and reflexivity as an inextricable component of qualitative social media research methodology.