As an aspiring communication professor, I am constantly on the lookout for the next research project I can take part in. It’s not just to build my CV (although that does account for some motivation); I also love to learn. I first decided to go into journalism because someone told me that when you’re a journalist you’re a lifelong learner. So I tried being a journalist, but soon I realized that many of the stories that I wanted to write weren’t really story ideas; they were research ideas. Once I accepted the idea that I missed homework and would rather spend my days researching, I applied for a master’s program in mass communications at Brigham Young University. And I love it. My research interests include mental health communication, intercultural communication, and computer-mediated communication.

Below I will include some of the research I am currently involved in. My past projects are also available under the Academia menu.

Presence and Physiological Responses to Virtual Reality Meditation in Ethnic and racial Minorities

Virtual reality (VR) is a growing technology, and is projected to be a $33 billion industry by 2022. It is becoming a household technology due to more inexpensive hardware that people can use with their smartphones; however, researching is still lacking in this area. Past research has indicated that VR can provide positive mental health benefits, such as helping with PTSD, depression, social anxiety, pain management, and anxiety. Though one 2010 study exists that tests virtual reality biofeedback with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), the sample only included 20 participants. This study will follow-up on that study, however, it will include a larger sample (N = 128) and more updated VR technology. This research project will examine how individuals with GAD physiologically respond in a VR meditation environment. We will also measure each individual’s perceived presence (which is how immersed one feels in a technology) to understand its influence on one’s reactions in VR environments.

Mental Health Communication in Immigrant Families: The Positive Influence of Social Media Contact

Immigrant experiences in the U.S. can be particularly difficult, as immigrants may experience acculturative stress brought on by discrimination or a mismatch of values with those of their host country. Past research indicates that family support and social networking sites can ameliorate their difficulties and contribute to psychological wellness. In order to determine how these factors influence immigrants’ mental health communication behaviors in their families, we conducted a survey among U.S. immigrants. Results indicated that for those who have discussed mental health with their parents, lowered self-stigma, more social media mental health contact, and age were associated with open communication. Further, first-generation immigrants reported higher open communication with parents than second-generation parents, and multiracial immigrants reported lower communication than monoracial immigrants. Qualitative results suggest that immigrants’ perceptions of positive mental health communication are dictated more by parents’ reactions than any personal factors, such as social media mental health contact.

Brazilian Immigrants’ Online Seeking of Host Mental Health Media

When I worked in the mental health field, I saw how difficult it was for both native English speakers as well as immigrants to navigate information about healthcare and benefits. In addition to that, I learned there are cultural stigmas that keep immigrants from seeking mental health resources. Thus, to bridge the gap, I am conducting research on understanding how immigrants access and perceive mental health communication online so that I can (in the future) create a non-profit organization that provides general information on the U.S. healthcare system (specifically related to behavioral health) and more culturally-focused information dealing with stigmas toward mental health. I will first be studying Brazilian immigrants’ experience accessing mental health information post-immigration to the U.S. This research paper will be presented at the National Communication Association conference in 2020.

Abstract: With Brazilian immigrants’ quick growing numbers and their status as an “invisible minority,” it is becoming increasingly important to evaluate their immigrant experience. Previous research has shown that the immigration process may be associated with psychological disequilibrium, and as such it is imperative that Brazilian immigrants have access to mental health resources. The current study included in-depth interviews with first generation Brazilian immigrants to the United States who reported on their use of online mass media to access information about mental health. Results indicated that Brazilian immigrants’ online mental health seeking occurred when they were distanced from the Brazilian stigma about mental health and in the vicinity of the U.S. culture of openness toward mental health, the difficulties of immigration, and acculturation to the English language. Thus, vicinity to English provides Brazilian immigrants with greater accessibility to mental health resources and improved host communication competence that provides them with ways in which to reestablish their psychological equilibrium in the process of cross-cultural adaptation.

Communicating About Mental Health During a Pandemic: An Examination of Social Support on Twitter

With the arrival of COVID-19, several U.S. states enacted stay-at-home orders to mitigate spread, but the isolation and uncertainty of quarantine can have a detrimental influence on mental health. This study investigates how people discuss COVID-19 in relation to mental health on Twitter. Using Crimson Hexagon, this research examines tweets for three months following the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. and includes an analysis of the public’s concern about the disease and a thematic analysis of conversations on the topic. Results indicate that those who discuss mental health online behave as an active public that recognizes how mental health can be affected during a health crisis. This public makes a concerted effort to provide social support and solidarity for others. Data show that when cases of the disease increased, mentions of depression, PTSD, and psychologists increased as well. Additionally, as deaths related to the disease increased, so did mentions of psychologists. Implications for communication practitioners and organizations are discussed through the lens of the situational theory of publics.

Asian American Cultural Identity Portrayal On Instagram

This research paper will be presented at the National Communication Association conference in 2020.

Abstract: Though more recent Asian American representation in media has been lauded, the majority of portrayals have been considered to be stereotypical misrepresentations. Because negative media representations can have a detrimental impact on people’s self-concepts and their views of others, it is important to understand how Asian Americans are representing themselves online. In order to understand how Asian Americans are creating their own ethnic, racial, and national identities online, constant comparative analysis was employed to examine patterns and themes in the visual and textual communication of Asian American Instagram posts. Their cultural identities were communicated as a cultural blending, which included the use of Asian, American/Western, and Asian American cultural values, products, and behaviors. Together, these factors provided insight into the construction and communication of a multilayered identity, mirroring the process of the communication theory of identity.

Safety Saviors and Cultural Hybrids: Political Impression Management and Power Hierarchies on Instagram

Social media has become an integral part of political impression management, which has been shown to influence social media followers’ political opinions. This study employed constant comparative analysis to understand how Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump have presented the topic of immigration on Instagram. Thematically, Trudeau self-presents as a cultural hybrid—or a leader who prioritizes multicultural diversity—while Trump portrays himself as a safety savior, or a leader-hero who champions safety from threatening foreign forces. Trudeau’s visual and textual communication are congruent with their messaging and focus on Trudeau as an active participant in immigrant communities; however, though Trump’s posts demonstrate his safety-first approach, his visual communication is characterized by a self-centric presentation. While Trudeau attempts to level the visual power hierarchies on Instagram between him and immigrant populations, Trump reinforces the hierarchies. Instagram further reinforces these politicians’ power, providing them with the organizational influence to dictate their own public images.

Rejecting Others on Dating Apps: Feeling Empowered on Bumble

This research paper will be presented at the National Communication Association conference in 2020.

Due to the lack of research on those who do the rejecting in romantic relationships, this study examines the computer-mediated experiences of females on Bumble, a dating app claiming to empower women by subverting the typical dating norms. A survey of female Bumble users investigates how self-disclosure, stress, and Machiavellianism leading up to rejecting a potential partner predicts post-rejecting self-esteem. Using multiple regression, this study shows that when women reject men who self-disclose a lot to them on Bumble, these women experience high self-esteem thereafter. When women self-disclose more information about themselves on the dating app, are more stressed about rejecting a man on Bumble, and possess Machiavellian tendencies, they experience a more negative self-perception after rejecting men. Those high in Machiavellian traits on average report higher levels of all variables, indicating that women high in Machiavellian traits may reject others with ulterior motives.