How did Gavin Williamson MP, former Secretary of State for Education, use Twitter during the pandemic?
To understand how information is shared and the exchange of ideas on Twitter, this study explores whether teachers, interested in education politics, share a common understanding and terminology with education politicians…
In a collection and analysis of 587 tweets exported and completed on 18th March 2021, this study aims to identify how Gavin Williamson MP, the former Secretary of State (SoS) for Education in England, used Twitter to communicate before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, during what can only be described as an educational crisis.
840 days in post, 567 Twitter updates…
At the time of writing, Williamson was a member of the Conservative political party and was appointed to the cabinet office by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 24th July 2019. He was sacked from his position on 15th September 2021 after 840 days in the post (and during this research study).
There were several demands for Williamson to resign; from fellow politicians, teachers and the general public, all observed in the traditional media and the public sphere (Fuchs, 2014) across Twitter.
Between March to May 2021, 22 static Social Media Network Analysis (SMNA) projects were completed on education topics shared on Twitter’s social media platform.
The objective was to sample several recurring topics over a specific period to understand who, what, and how key education issues were shared, how the topic discourse evolved, and identify any trends or patterns in user content at particular periods.
Topics and educational issues during the peak of COVID-19 included: Keeping schools open or closed, wearing masks in school and whether or not young people should get vaccinated.
Here is a sample of some of the data collected.
- #VoteConservative (x34) features more #StayHomeSaveLives (x10)
- The words ‘mental’ and ‘health’ feature 10 times
- A breakdown month by month shows that Williamson tweeted more times in the first 3 months of 2021 than all tweets posted during the pandemic crisis.
- The most reoccurring hour to post is at 16:00 hours, with Wednesday 18:00 the most popular time and day.
Read the full paper
If you are interested in reading my attempts to learn more about social media networks, education politics in England and how the influence shapes up online, read my latest paper in full.
The behavioural patterns of Gavin Williamson’s status updates on Twitter suggest that in the context of COVID-19 and the challenges, teachers, parents and pupils were facing, Williamson decided to withdraw his Twitter activity during a time of crisis.