Computer Mediated Communication: The Impact of ICT Usage on Non-Platonic Relationships
 
Student researchers

Kayla Hales and Bridget Blodgett (Graduate Students)
This paper is based on a project from the "Psychological Aspects of Communication Technology" graduate course.

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

Introduction

Interpersonal relationships are one of the most essential elements of life. Once established, it is necessary that they be maintained. With the advent of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), a new communication culture has emerged. This new form of communication (Computer Mediated Communication - CMC) is a type of relational maintenance strategy currently being overlooked in the literature. Yet, as CMC is becoming more prevalent, it is becoming increasingly important that we study its influence on sustaining interpersonal relationships.

research questions

- RQ1: How do media affordances influence the use of relational maintenance behaviors?
- RQ2: How does written and vocal electronic communication with one’s partner influence relationship quality?
- RQ3: How do individuals and their communication with their partner vary in relation to their use of relational maintenance behaviors?

Method

Respondents for this study consisted of 123 undergraduate students from two universities in the northeastern United States. However, 15 respondents indicated that they were not a member of a non-platonic relationship. Therefore, no data were collected from these individuals. Additionally, 52 respondents did not fully complete the survey. Therefore, for the purpose of this study, N=56. Students from The Pennsylvania State University (67.90%) were recruited via classes in the College of Communication and The College of Information Sciences and Technology. Some students received class credit for participating. Students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (32.10%) were recruited via electronic mail. Females constituted 67% of the sample, leaving the male percentage at 33%; one participant did not indicate gender.

Results

There were significant ties between media choice and the use of relational maintenance behaviors. These ties are influenced by the perceived affordances of the medium that the individuals choose to communicate through. However, many of the media seem to support vocal communication behaviors more than they do the written communication behaviors. The demographics of the sample popular also seem to have some impact on what modality and media a couple will use in their communications.

Conclusions

The synchronicity of media played a large role in individuals’ choices on which relational maintenance behaviors are used. Other perceived affordances also had some interaction with the behaviors however they were not found as strongly across the board. In addition, media that have a longer history of usage for maintaining relationships are used more frequently and have a stronger tie to the maintenance strategies. However, this strength is tied to the modality of the original medium. Individuals that used one type of modality increasing preferred that modality for all their behaviors, shying away from the other modalities that may be available.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University