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“People will go to great lengths to look for love” with Dr. Jennifer Bevan

Tobie Atanacio, Crystal Bender, Kevin Duong, Julissa Villalobos, Marcos Zelada-Rodas

“Bevan, Jennifer L.” Jennifer L. Bevan — School of Communication | Chapman University, https://www.chapman.edu/our-faculty/jennifer-bevan

We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jennifer L. Bevan regarding her article, “ ‘You’ve been on my mind ever since’: A content analysis of expressions of interpersonal attraction in Craigslist.org’s Missed Connections posts”.

Dr. Bevan is a professor at Chapman University. She received her master’s degree from the University of Delaware and obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. Dr. Bevan’s research and courses are centered on interpersonal communication and health communication within close relationships. In addition, she was recognized in 2009 and 2015 as one of the most prolific and central scholars in the field of communication studies. Dr. Bevan has also received numerous awards, including the Valerie Scudder Award. Her first book, The Communication of Jealousy, was given the Diamond Anniversary Book Award and Gerald R. Miller Book Award by the NCA.

Throughout the course of our discussion, we were able to ask Dr. Bevan about the research methods and limitations of her study. Dr. Bevan also gave her professional insight on how we could best conduct our own research.

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  1. What made you interested in conducting a study on this topic?

Dr. Bevan stated that she’s always been interested in Missed Connections ever since she read about it in the past. She thought it was such a unique and weird way to try and reconnect with someone. It is somewhat simple and basic because you are posting something on Craigslist, but since it is also online it has the chance of linking with someone. She was interested in how attraction is depicted in these settings. 

  1. How did you arrive at this Research topic? Were there any related ideas that just didn’t pan out? 

Dr Bevan was very interested in the idea of how a website like Craigslist was able to connect so many different people together and the audience it would reach. Jennifer and her team of undergraduate students were pretty focused on what they were looking for, since they knew the Craigslist posts and users were not going to be that detailed. They felt pretty limited by who the individual person was seeking based on the information that they were given. In their study, they were able to get a lot of information for their research topic based on the gender and sexual orientation details the post provided, despite their limited information. There were still some limitations with gathering specific data because a few of the posts had very little data to collect. It was difficult for the people who were making the posts because they could only use words to describe the person they are trying to connect to without using any photos or videos. 

  1. What was the most shocking or interesting thing to come out of your research in your opinion? 

Throughout her research, some of the details and information she was collecting were very detailed and in-depth. People felt very passionate about who they were trying to find and connect to. It was quite sweet, but also sad reading about these posts because it was possible that they would never connect with the people they were trying to find. Also, she was quite shocked by how many men posted trying to find these connections. This made her ponder if this was an easier way for men to express themselves since their posts on Craigslist were anonymous. 

  1. What problems or limitations did you encounter the most while conducting research? 

Since the Craiglist’s posts were all so public and you really did not need to make an account or go through approval to review posts, it was quite difficult for Dr. Bevan to ask people further questions. It would have been interesting if they were able to directly contact the people who post to see if they were successful in finding the person they were looking for. Since Dr. Bevan is a survey researcher, it would have been helpful to individually ask follow up questions in the form of online surveys to gather more information to better support the research topic. 

  1. Do you foresee new methods of gathering data from individuals in the near future? 

Dr. Bevan explains that the internet has advanced significantly since 2015 and that her method of collecting data could be considered a bit outdated. There are several new databases and public forums online and the numbers will only increase in the future. Dr. Bevan believes that these new archives will make it much easier to gather data. 

  1. If we conducted a study on this topic, would you recommend us following your method of collecting data? 

If we were to have the same format of collecting data, Dr. Bevan recommends using her way of gathering her research topic if we were just looking at the posts. She did a pretty safe way of doing a quantitative content analysis of people. She does recommend we over sample and make sure to get an equal amount of heterosexual and homosexual posts in order to gain more insight of the population and to portray a more realistic representation. 

  1. If you could redo this study again, would you change anything?

Dr. Bevan said that she regrets not delving into same-sex attraction. Her content analysis only showed heterosexual relationships and heterosexual attraction. Dr. Bevan believes that it was a missed opportunity to not add in Missed Connection posts from people in the LGBTQIA+ demographic. 

  1. How did you prepare for your research study?

Dr. Bevan and her team had a vision of how they wanted the research study to look like beforehand. A few people from her group were set aside to do the research of the website and annotations of the study. Meanwhile, a few members of her team and her were learning the exact coding of the study while also preparing the research paper. 

  1. Is your study still relevant to any situation or website we have in today’s society? 

Dr. Bevan believes her study is still relevant in today’s society and that it is quite different from any other websites that we have today. Since users of Craiglists do not have to make an account, providing personal information, a lot of people are able to go anonymous without the worry of people trying to figure out who they are. A lot of online users would like to connect with others without the worry of being identified, which caters to a lot of people.


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