The effects of text, audio, video, and in-person communication on bonding between friends

Vol.7,No.2(2013)

Abstract
Considerable research on computer-mediated communication has examined online communication between strangers, but little is known about the emotional experience of connectedness between friends in digital environments. However, adolescents and emerging adults use digital communication primarily to communicate with existing friends rather than to make new connections. We compared feelings of emotional connectedness as they occurred in person and through digital communication among pairs of close friends in emerging adulthood. Fifty-eight young women, recruited in pairs of close friends, engaged in four conversations each: in-person, video chat, audio chat, and instant messaging (IM). Bonding in each condition was measured through both self-report and affiliation cues (i.e., nonverbal behaviors associated with the emotional experience of bonding). Participants reported feeling connected in all conditions. However, bonding, as measured by both self-report and affiliation cues, differed significantly across conditions, with the greatest bonding during in-person interaction, followed by video chat, audio chat, and IM in that order. Compared with other participants, those who used video chat more frequently reported greater bonding with friends through video chat in our study. Compared with other participants, those who spoke on the phone more frequently with their participating friend reported greater bonding during audio chat. Use of textual affiliation cues like emoticons, typed laughter, and excessive letter capitalization during IM related to increased bonding experience during IM. Nonetheless, a significantly lower level of bonding was experienced in IM compared with in-person communication. Because adolescent and emerging adults’ digital communication is primarily text-based, this finding has significant real-world implications.

Keywords:
Emerging adulthood, digital communication, friendship, bonding
Author biographies

Lauren E. Sherman

Author photo Lauren Sherman, M.A., is a Ph.D. student in developmental psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and a researcher at the Children’s Digital Media Center@Los Angeles. She studies the ways that adolescents and emerging adults use digital technology to interact with peers and the way these interactions influence social development. Lauren is a trainee for the FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development, where she studies the intersections of social and neural development during adolescence.

Minas Michikyan

Author photo Minas Michikyan, M.A., is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), and a researcher at the Children's Digital Media Center @Los Angeles (CSULA/UCLA), the Multicultural Research Center (CSULA), and the Digital Learning and Development Lab (University of Southern California). Minas' research focuses on the role of culture in the social development and psychosocial well-being of youth, including examining how newer interactive media influence nonverbal social and emotional functioning, as well as self-presentation. Minas also studies cross-cultural issues in the context of development.

Patricia M. Greenfield

Author photo Patricia Greenfield, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UCLA and Director of the Children’s Digital Media Center @ Los Angeles, is author of Mind and Media: The Effects of Television, Video Games, and Computers (1984), subsequently translated into nine languages and released as a classic edition in 2014; coeditor of Effects of Interactive Entertainment Technologies on Development (1994); coeditor of Children, Adolescents, and the Internet: A New Field of Inquiry in Developmental Psychology (2006); coeditor of Social Networking on the Internet: Developmental Implications (2008); and co-editor of Interactive Technologies and Human Development (2012). Her empirical research on the developmental implications of interactive media has included action video games, massive multiplayer online role-playing games, teen chat rooms, social networking sites, and YouTube. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she has received the Bronfenbrenner Award for Lifetime Contribution to Developmental Psychology in the Service of Science and Society from the American Psychological Association (2010) and the Distinguished Contribution to Cultural and Contextual Factors in Child Development award from the Society for Research in Child Development (2013).
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