Kayla Hales has an abiding interest in interpersonal relationships, with a special emphasis on romantic couples. More specifically, she is interested in the impact that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have on interpersonal relationships and the way these ICTs are used to initiate, develop, and maintain these relationships. As such, she created and teaches a course called "Interpersonal Relationships and Technology" (TC401).
Hales' research tends to include "all" electronic communication, such as email, texts, social media, and similar methods. While her research has focused primarily on couples who met more traditionally (in person), she has begun to expand her work to also include individuals who are exploring less traditional methods of forming relationships (online dating). How does electronic communication shape the development of these relationships? Does the constant stream of communication help to bring the couples closer together or cause them to drift further apart? These are only a couple of the questions Hales seeks to explore.
"These technologies are only becoming increasingly popular and more demanding of our time," Hales says. "People expect us to use them now." This is why Hales believes it is critical to study the impacts ICTs are having on relationships, because "communication and relationships are the cornerstone of society." While previously Hales has focused on "all" electronic communication, she plans to zero in on only one technology at a time to tease apart how that technology supports or hinders would-be lovers. Hales believes that ICTs are tools that can be used to facilitate positive or negative outcomes. In exploring how these technologies are used and the impacts of their use, Hales wants to understand how different ICTs can be effectively used to strengthen relationships. "One goal of my research is to assist individuals in improving their quality of life by forming and maintaining healthy relationships, with 'healthy' meaning high quality, high satisfaction, stable, and enduring."
Hales' secondary area of interest revolves around media portrayals of relationships in the African-American community. There have been recurring and never-ending stories in the media about the "broken" state of black families. Asking "How is mainstream media portraying relationships in the black community and how, if at all, are these portrayals impacting the relational behaviors of societal members?" is the question that started her journey down this path of research. The answers, of course, will be quite a lengthy process to find. This large-scale research opportunity will begin with a content analysis project, for which Hales is currently working with a team of three graduate students. Upon completion of the first phase of this project, Hales plans to advise each of the graduate students on her team to spearhead an article for publication. These students will take the papers in three different, but related, directions.
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