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.
In the years since, CMC researchers have compared audiovisual, auditory, and text-based communication to in-person communication on a wide variety of variables, including efficiency of communication, cognitive task performance, intimacy of disclosure, and trust (Antheunis, Schouten, Valkenburg, & Peter, 2012; Bargh, Mc Kenna, & Fitzsimons, 2002; Burgoon et al., 2002; Ray & Floyd, 2006; Tidwell & Walther, 2002; Walther, Loh, & Granka, 2005).
For strangers meeting for the first time, digital communication has been shown to enhance the intimacy and frequency of self-disclosure (Antheunis, Valkenburg, & Peter, 2007; Tidwell & Walther, 2002), and strangers meeting in text-based environments show higher affinity for one another than strangers meeting one another face-to-face (Antheunis et al., 2012, Bargh et al., 2002).
In contrast, adolescents and young adults use digital tools mainly to communicate with existing connections, whether friends, family, or acquaintances (Gross, 2004; Reich, Subrahmanyam, & Espinoza, 2012; Subrahmanyam, Reich, Waechter, & Espinoza, 2008; Valkenburg & Peter, 2007).
Stated differently, youth use digital media to maintain connections established in face-to-face contexts.
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By the late 1970’s, experimental work examining information exchange through teleconferencing and closed-circuit television was advanced enough to warrant a review in Psychological Bulletin (Williams, 1977).
Furthermore, today’s 18-29 year olds are often described as “digital natives” because they have grown up using these technologies, utilizing text-based tools to develop existing friendships during adolescence, a sensitive period for socioemotional development (Baird, 2010; Prensky, 2001; Steinberg, 2005).
While research has established that digital communication can enhance existing friendships over the long-term (e.g., Valkenburg & Peter, 2007, 2009), a continuing concern among some is that youth are less “connected” than they were in the past or that increasing digital communication contributes to stunted socioemotional or empathic growth (Small & Vorgan, 2008; Turkle, 2012).
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).