One Unread Notification
Snapchat. Yik Yak. Grindr. Tinder. Kik. And yes, even Facebook.
In the era of social media, where privacy is sometimes just an afterthought, how we choose to express ourselves is almost as important as what we’re actually saying. Countless new apps and communications platforms have sprung up to enable users to connect, share, and talk—and sometimes, do a lot more.
Associate Professor of Psychology Michelle Drouin is a leading expert on the ways new and emerging technologies impact, shape, and redefine communication within all kinds of interpersonal relationships.
Her research into how sexting affects romantic relationships and the development of sexual identity in adolescents and young adults has caught national attention in recent years. Drouin and her research have been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, ABC News, Parenting magazine, and many others.
What is “Sexting”?
Sexting—a portmanteau of “sex” and “texting”—is when someone uses text messages, photos, videos, or other content sent from a mobile device to flirt with someone else.
Given the ubiquitous nature of smart phones capable of sending and receiving multimedia from anywhere at any time, a growing number of people—adolescents and young adults especially—have taken to flirting textually.
According to a 2014 study, 24 percent of high-school aged students and 33 percent of college students have, at some point in their lives, sent a nude or semi-nude photo of himself or herself to another person.
Its popularity has raised a number of concerns, especially among parents, about how to deal with privacy, exposure, and sexuality in an always-on, always-connected world.
What the Behavior Suggests
Drouin is especially interested in the ways in which sexting behaviors may be indicative of psychological affectations, including insecurities and avoidant or anxious attachments among romantic couples.
Her research suggests that there may be a connection in an individual’s sexting behaviors and how they may approach a romantic or sexual relationship in a broader sense.
Drouin is also interested in using her research to explore the impact sexting has on identity and sexual development in adolescents and young adults. She believes that this research can help young people understand the role sexting plays in shaping their identities and also help them avoid the risks associated with sexting.
Helping Young People Make Responsible Choices
One way Drouin has ensured her research is understood and actualized by younger audiences has been to get her students involved. She frequently invites IPFW psychology majors to help conduct research into the psychological correlates and behaviors associated with social media use in interpersonal relationships.
Along with understanding the behaviors of those who engage in sexting, Drouin is interested in capitalizing on that research to help young people make responsible choices—not only when it comes to sexting, but with regard to their “digital footprint” in a broader sense.
Helping teenagers and young adults understand how to responsibly use social media is a key goal for her future endeavors here at IPFW.
Program Snapshot: Department of Psychology
Be mindful. In the Department of Psychology, discover the study of behavior, thought, and intelligence. Join a research project, collaborate on a conference paper, or explore current issues in mental health and wellness. We graduate counselors, researchers, and more. Our programs include psychobiology, clinical research, social psychology, and research methods. Learn more.