I have young kids myself, so I know every family dinnertime is an event that can fall anywhere on the spectrum from something you want to forget as soon as possible to something you and your kids will remember fondly in years to come. But that’s my take on it—I wanted to know what the inhabitants of the social media universe are saying, so I used ConsumerBase to do a mini-netnography on dinnertime.

This netnography builds on a post about dinnertime by Paul Banas. In his post, he goes into a discussion of classifying sound bites about dinnertime. I thought I could expand on his analysis by looking broadly at positive and negative themes around family dinnertime.

The Best Thing About Dinnertime
After I coded the sound bites for themes, I found there are many aspects of dinnertime that people like: they find it fun, it provides emotional and health benefits, and it’s a chance for children to learn. But what they like most is that it’s an opportunity to have a conversation.

Here’s the theme chart for positive themes:

Positive Dinnertime Themes

Here are some sound bites on the theme of conversation as a positive:
Dinnertime is a great time to communicate with your child. The younger you start this with your child the better…. establish this line of communication at mealtime the easier it will be for your teen to feel comfortable to talk with you later. (source)
• Irish politics. And finally, some disappointing news about family dinners from the parentonomics man. There are studies showing that family dinnertime is a good thing. Dinner is where the meaningful conversations take place. From this, I take it that continual pleading to sit still or eat your vegetables or don’t wipe your dirty face on your shirt doesn’t cut it. (source)
• Reading can also be part of a family ritual, for example, with a bowl of popcorn, or on a trip. Make a date at least once a month to do something special with each child who receives undivided parental attention. Use dinnertime to share your lives and teach moral and spiritual values. Establish “Manners for Talking”. Don’t interrupt; No put downs; Look at the person who is talking. (source)

The Worst Thing About Dinnertime
Kids and dinnertime is definitely a good news/bad news scenario. When they’re wearing their halos, they make it a joy; when they’re wearing their horns, it’s a nightmare. The research shows that when dinnertime is bad, it’s often a result of issues with children, which include fussy eating, being too tired, and not sitting still to eat. I can reassure parents that a lot of these issues are resolved as the kids get older and they follow the parents guidance (yes, it happens sometimes). So don’t despair—dinnertime will become fun and enjoyable once again!

Here’s the theme chart for negative themes:

Negative Dinnertime Themes

Here are some sound bites on dinnertime negatives:
So dinnertime is difficult, cause they [kids] won’t eat the good stuff I make. (I am not concerned about that now because I know in 4-5 years they will be eating everything in sight). But they LOVE breakfast food. (source)
• When did I lose my temper? I kept my cool, even when the boys waged a dinner battle. Stacy and I talked about this after dinner, and we’ve agreed that the primary reason that the boys aren’t eating enough at dinnertime is that they’re [boys] too full to eat. This is likely because of the snack that they’ve been getting around three o’clock in the afternoon. Our proposed solution to this, then is to eliminate this late snack. (source)

BTW, doing a netnography like this with ConsumerBase is fast: Basically, in the time it takes to make dinner, eat it, and clean up, we were able get these insights about how a wide range of people feel about dinnertime.

My purpose here was to show that a tool like ConsumerBase can take a jumble of raw information and help researchers organize it, interpret it, and find actionable insights—which is what Paul Banas was saying needs to happen for social media listening to evolve into a more useful discipline.