Liesel Sharabi, an assistant professor at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, is the first recipient of the Hugh Downs School’s Faculty of Innovation Award.
Sharabi, who is studying interpersonal communication in the digital age, began his service at Arizona State University in the fall of 2020.
The two-year award was established in 2020 in memory of Hugh Downs by his son, Hugh R. “HR” Downs; his daughter, Deirdre Downs; and his grandson, Cameron Black. Hugh Downs, for whom the ASU School of Human Communication was named, was best known as the Emmy-winning American broadcaster, author, host, and founding voice of modern American media. He died on July 1, 2020, at the age of 99.
“Professor Sharabi is well known for her cutting-edge research into the role that technology plays in the way people communicate in relationships,” said school associate principal Hugh Downs and Professor Laura Guerrero, who chaired the research committee that recruited Sharabi.
“In addition to publishing in numerous academic journals, she is the author of a blog called ‘Dating in the Digital Age’ for Psychology Today. Her work has also been featured in popular media such as the Huffington Post and New Magazine. York: His research on relational communication and technology complements the research interests of Hugh Downs School faculty in seeing how technology is changing the communicative landscape in modern dating relationships. ”
Sharabi will receive $ 5,000 a year for two years to support three projects:
Project no. 1: Dating in virtual reality
In recent decades, digital dating through websites and mobile apps has become a multimillion-dollar industry and the most common form of dating for couples in the United States.
According to Sharabi, virtual reality (VR) is likely to be a major player in singles interaction.
“Virtual reality promises to be a new frontier in social interaction, potentially infiltrating the digital dating scene and blurring the line between mediated relationships and face-to-face relationships,” he said.
To study dating and virtual realities, Sharabi will collaborate with Jonathan Pettigrew, an associate professor at Hugh Downs School and ASU School of Engineering to develop equipment and software. The team will perform experiments by sending people to the first immersive virtual reality appointments. Participants will be in different locations and will wear virtual reality headsets so that the social presence of the couple is very evident.
“We will match random people and then observe their first dates in virtual reality. We will see the communication process, how they orient each other and how they behave,” Sharabi said.
The team will examine the results of the relationships, such as the satisfaction of the conversation and whether the partners want to see each other for a second date (either face-to-face or via VR).
“We will compare this experience with face-to-face dating, as well as digital dating in which people interact via text on a computer. Then we’ll see how the results compare to traditional forms of dating. ”
Project no. 2: Mobile dating and wellness apps
In recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the influence of the use of technology on mental health has become a topic of growing academic interest and social concern.
“Several recent studies have accredited the use of technology with declining well-being among young adults, many of whom have grown up with the Internet and mobile phones and who continue to spend much of their lives behind screens,” he said. Sharabi.
“For example, researchers have found evidence of ‘Facebook depression’ and have shown that people who compare unfavorably to others tend to be especially susceptible to the negative effects of social media on mental health.”
Despite all that is known about the social and psychological effects of using social media, Sharabi says only a handful of studies have considered the implications of mobile dating apps for mental health and well-being. .
Sharabi will work with graduate and undergraduate students to begin one of the first longitudinal studies on this topic.
The study will follow a nationally representative sample of mobile dating app users over several weeks to examine the effects of frequent and compulsive slipping on important markers of mental health (including depression and social anxiety) and well-being, like loneliness.
Sharabi is also currently working with graduate students to collect data related to this project that will focus specifically on the well-being of users of LGBTQIA + dating apps.
Project no. 3: Online dating and marriage
Sharabi says relationship scientists have long tried to understand the institution of marriage and why some relationships are successful when others fail.
“The rise of online dating presents new challenges and opportunities for the long-term success of relationships that did not exist before the Internet,” Sharabi said.
“Today almost a third of marriages have started online and research has shown that these relationships are often more satisfying and less likely to end in divorce than those that start in traditional offline sites. However, little is known. on why online relationships would be more successful “.
To complete this project, Sharabi will analyze data on online dating and marriage.
“Just before the closure of COVID-19, I conducted 50 in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of former online daters who were married or engaged to someone they met online,” Sharabi said.
“I also surveyed a nationally representative sample of 924 married adults, half of whom met their spouse in online dating and the other half were introduced in a more traditional way, such as in bars or through I plan to use the data to compare marriages formed from online dating to those that started offline and to determine if the matching process on online dating platforms is associated with success. of the long-term relationship ”.
He added: “This study will provide information on how marriages resulting from online dating are compared to offline relationships and whether these platforms really respond to claims of effectiveness.”
Have courage for those who are dating and hoping to find a spouse.
“Based on my conversations with participants, I also hope the results will be useful to online dating users in their efforts to find companionship and build meaningful relationships on and off the Internet dating platforms.”