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How Big of an Impact Does Your Smartphone Have?

Friday, May 13, 2016

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Written by Meleah Lewis '16; Photo by Ashlan Poniatowski '16

It is a Friday night and you and your significant other are out for dinner. While waiting for a table your significant other is consumed by their smartphone. Once seated, your significant other continues their smartphone use. Sound like a typical dinner date? This picture painted is all too common in today’s culture. 

UNCW senior communication studies major Meleah Lewis has researched this very topic. She explored the impact smartphones have on relational satisfaction and relationship certainty. This research originated as a part of a class project in her spring 2015 Quantitative Methods course, taught by Dr. Matthew Lapierre. During the course, the class created surveys, distributed the surveys, collected and analyzed data, then wrote a literature review and methods section. As the end of the semester approached, Lapierre asked the class if anyone would like to continue the research with him over the next few months. Lewis, being the only one to jump on the opportunity, worked with Lapierre over summer 2015, fall 2015, and spring 2016 to create a results section, discussion section, and submit the research for publication. 

Not only does this research examine a prevalent topic in today’s society, but it is also unique due to the lengths Lewis and Lapierre went to complete and publish this research. After the spring 2015 semester, Lapierre accepted a job at the University of Arizona and left UNCW. Therefore, Lewis being in North Carolina and Lapierre being in Arizona created a long distance mentoring bond. Lewis and Lapierre communicated via phone and email in order to work on, complete, and publish the research. Their research was approved for publication in Psychology of Popular Media Culture in March of 2016. After the research was published, Lewis agreed to do an extension of the study with Lapierre. Lapierre states, “We are now determining whether there are any moderating variables that are playing a role here. For example, does loneliness amplify the relationship between dependency and relation satisfaction. We are also examining whether smartphone dependency affects other aspects of student lives, such as academic performance.”

When Lewis accepted Lapierre’s offer to continue their study after her Quantitative Methods course, she accepted the opportunity for development of new skills, the growth of a dedicated mentorship, published work, experience, and more. Lewis states, “I never thought taking Quantitative Methods would lead me to be a published author during my college career.” Lewis has gained an abundance of skill sets, such as knowledge and ability to use the SPSS software. SPSS is software used for statistical analysis and for finding significant differences or correlations between large sets of data. Since Lewis hopes to go into real estate one day, first as a marketing coordinator in the real estate field, this skill will benefit her greatly. This skill can be helpful when researching clients, exploring marketing angles, and creating effective surveys.

“I am truly grateful for Dr. Lapierre’s dedication in this research experience, his investment in our work, and his willingness to continue to work with me states apart,” says Lewis. Having mentorships, jumping on opportunities, and gaining any experience you can, is an important lesson Lewis learned. She says, “I encourage everyone to take any opportunities presented to them. You never know where they can lead or what you can learn.” 

Editor Note: An article about this study appeared in Time Magazine on April 26. You can view it here.