1.2.many: personal connections in the digital age (introduction)

Just a quick note: I’ve changed the name of this blog. The former name, “Maintaining Healthy Relationships,” wasn’t bad–I do care about relational health. But upon reflection, that doesn’t quite capture the core of my research.

Since graduate school, my one-sentence description of my scholarly identity has been this: I am social scientist who researches how people maintain relationships using communication technology.

Thus, I work at the intersection of interpersonal and mass communication–two traditionally separate areas of communication research that we now, of technological and social necessity, must wed together.

The first part of the new blog name, “1.2.many,” captures that union. In traditional mass communication research, “one-to-many” has referred to communication technologies that broadcast from one source to many recipients. Radio or cable TV are classic examples. I’ve twisted this phrase by changing the “to” to a “2”–the number of people communicating in classic definitions of interpersonal communication.

Thus, “1.2.many” represents how we communicate via technology–often physically alone (1), maintaining specific dyadic (i.e., 2-person) relationships, yet often to and with a broader social network (many). Taken alone, this could capture many communication goals, such as word-of-mouth marketing. But I’m interested in how we maintain relationships–hence the tagline “personal connections in the digital age.”

Oh, there’s a new visual theme too.

But some of you might be asking, “will he write more frequently??” My honest answer is that I hope to. Yes, you sense a “but”–and the “but” is that I have other writing commitments to keep, and for better or worse, academia does not yet place much value in the blog as a scholarly outlet! Now that’s a subject worthy of a blog post itself… perhaps someday.

If you’re interested in my work that has been published this year, there’s this article in Communication Quarterly about how romantic partners’ attitudes toward technology are associated with their technology use. In an article in Journal of Family CommunicationStephenson Beck (NDSU) and I address two competing models of family communication and relational maintenance. And with TCU colleague Amber Finnan article in Communication Education finds that college students actually do want their teachers to regulate students’ social use of technology–and perhaps especially cell phones. There’s also the new edition of A First Look at Communication Theory, but I’ve already blogged about that.

So, until next time… meanwhile, you can keep up with me in smaller tidbits on Twitter @dr_ledbetter.

Why “Maintaining Healthy Relationships”?

Close relationships matter.

While creating this blog, an article in The Wall Street Journal caught my eye: “Is Your Personality Making You Put on Pounds?” I like working out (and, um, eating), and I like thinking about personality, so I took a look. Most interestingly to me, the article noted that the quality of our relationships has something to do with our physical health. Specifically, reporting on a study published in the academic journal Pediatrics, the WSJ noted, “Toddlers who had low-quality emotional relationships with their mothers are more than twice as likely to be obese at age 15 as those who have closer bonds.”

And that’s just one study. A host of research strongly indicates that the quality of our close relationships influences our physical health, as well as our mental health, our emotional state, and work productivity.

The title of this blog is “Maintaining Healthy Relationships.” But, a few words about that. By “relationships,” I don’t necessarily mean “romantic relationships.” Those are important, but so are our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. I mean “healthy” in two senses. First, relationships are a bit like our bodies. Some possess more health than others, and without maintenance, even a very healthy relationship may turn sick (or die). But secondly, when we maintain healthy relationships, they bring vitality to other areas of our lives. In both of these senses, the chief purpose of this blog is to explore how we can maintain healthy relationships.

So, what exactly will you find here?

Well, I am a researcher, so you’ll hear about what I’m studying—in fact, unless you see me face-to-face, this blog will be the best and first place to find out about my scholarship. Maintaining relationships through technology is one of my most common research topics.

I’m also a person who cares deeply about his relationships, so you’ll hear my personal opinion as well. My faith, which I believe is a relationship with Jesus Christ, is very important to me, and I plan that some (but not all) posts will investigate what the Bible says about close relationships. You may also see occasional posts on non-relationship topics, such as the nature of academic life.

But whatever the topic, I invite you to discuss and explore with me. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I hope that, together, we can discover how best to maintain healthy relationships!