Face-to-Facebook: Expert Pavica Sheldon on the social networking site and its impact on interpersonal communication

[avatar user=”dsgoldman@fullsail.edu” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”] [/avatar] By Dylan S. Goldman

Dr. Pavica Sheldon spends a lot of time Facebooking at work.

That’s because for the University of Alabama – Huntsville professor, Facebook is work.

For almost a decade, Dr. Sheldon has specialized in the affects that the social networking giant has had on the way we communicate with each other.

“I was always curious why people do [the] things that they do – what motivates them to post on Facebook, Instagram, et cetera,” Sheldon said.

As a matter of fact, she was so curious that in 2006, while a first-year doctoral student at Louisiana State University, Sheldon went out on a virtual limb: she decided to focus her research, thesis and doctoral dissertation on Facebook, which had only first made its Internet debut two years prior.

“My professors did not know what Facebook was back then,” Sheldon recalled.

Now, Dr. Sheldon’s professors may have heard of it; Facebook presently reported having an average of 890 million active daily users.

Her dissertation, “Similarities and Differences in Self-Disclosure and Friendship: Development between Face-to-Face Communication and Facebook”, was one of the first formal academic papers to be published about the social networking site.

Her work has been published in several academic journals, including Journal of Media Psychology, Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, Southern Communication Journal, Journal of Social Media in Society and Computers in Human Behavior.

Her research has shown Facebook has had a multitude of affects on interpersonal communication. “The positive [affects] include maintenance of relationships, entertainment and passing time,” she explained. “The negative include internet addiction, declining quality of interpersonal relationships, issues of privacy and security, stalking, and shorter attention spans.”

Dr. Sheldon has discovered that Facebook and social media, in general, affects Millennials the most.

“Overall, I think it had more effects for those born between 1975 and 1985; both more negative effects and more positive, [such as] maintaining relationships,” she said. “Older individuals do not use it as much, so [social media has] less chances to affect them.”

Psychology Graphic

GRAPHIC BY DYLAN S. GOLDMAN, © 2015 DSG MEDIA

Dr. Sheldon, who is originally from Croatia, received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in 2003 from the University of Zagreb. In 2004, she moved to Louisiana, where she received a Master’s degree in Mass Communications (M.M.C.) in 2006, and her Ph.D in Communication Studies at Louisiana State University. While conducting Graduate research in interpersonal and mass communication, Dr. Sheldon worked as a Teacher’s Assistant.

Specializing in Social Media and Family Communication, the majority of Dr. Sheldon’s research on the relationship between Facebook and interpersonal communication is part of a very young sub-field of Psychology called Cyberpsychology, which was ‘fathered’ a mere 20 years ago by a Psychology Professor at Rider University, Dr. John Suler.

As for the future of old-fashioned communication? According to the expert, “It will move from face-to-face to online and mobile.”

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