Benedictine faculty engage community - virtually and in person

January 20, 2014

Volunteer services leads the way while a social media study suggests anxiety may increase during initial face-to-face encounters

BenUMesa_CurbPainting_0555Mesa, Arizona ~ Ever check out someone online before meeting them in person for the first time for an interview or social engagement? Well, doing so just may make the first meeting worse.

In a study analyzing levels of perceived anxiety, people who viewed a person’s social media page prior to meeting another person had heightened levels of anxiety after meeting them for the first time. Shannon Rauch, Benedictine University at Mesa assistant professor of Psychology, found that for people with social anxiety, first getting to know someone online may not alleviate that initial meeting tension, but in fact elevate it.

Rauch’s 2013 study, “Face to Face Versus Facebook: Does Exposure to Social Networking Web Sites Augment or Attenuate Physiological Arousal Among the Socially Anxious?” was published on and in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. Although Rauch admits that it is possible for individuals who meet after first viewing someone’s social media profile to have an increased positive reaction in person, interpersonal anxiety was found to be higher for the study participants who viewed Facebook before a face-to-face interaction with the person whose profile picture they viewed.

“Because of its growing pervasiveness, the understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of Facebook interactions continues to be of considerable importance,” Rauch reported. “Its influence on those who struggle with social anxiety is particularly critical.”

To better apply the study to the real world, Rauch encourages future studies to involve the participants’ own social media pages in opposite-sex encounters. Her study focused on all-female participants who viewed pictures of a female’s social media page before being instructed to study the person’s face, but not interact.

Interacting with the public is just what Benedictine University at Mesa students were seeking during a recent weekend service project led by Robert W. Monk, assistant professor of Military Sciences at Benedictine.

Students helped revitalize four houses within the community as a part of the Mesa City Building Stronger Neighborhoods Initiative and University’s ROTC Program’s service learning. The ROTC program is designed to teach freshmen students skills in leadership, personal development, values, ethics and overall officership.
One home was completely repainted and at least three other homes near downtown Mesa had bulk trash removal, including old appliances, vegetation and furniture.

“This project enhances the classroom curriculum and benefits the local community,” Monk said.

Service to others is a core value at Benedictine – named the fastest-growing university in the country by The Chronicle of Higher Education and among 10 universities in the nation on the cutting edge of tech for 2013 by education and technology blog edcetera. The University provides a private, values-based education grounded in history, heritage and Catholic tradition.

For more information about Benedictine, please visit or the Gregory Enrollment Center at 51 E. Main St., Suite 105 in downtown Mesa, or contact us at (602) 888-5533 or

The University is accepting applications for spring and fall 2014 enrollment. Spring classes begin January 21.


Benedictine University at Mesa is a branch campus of Benedictine University, an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago. Founded in 1887, Benedictine is ranked No. 1 among the country’s fastest-growing campuses between 2000-2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among “America’s Top Colleges” for the third consecutive year in 2013. Education and technology blog edcetera named Benedictine University at Mesa among 10 universities in the nation on the cutting edge of tech for 2013.

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