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We compared feelings of emotional connectedness as they occurred in person and through digital communication among pairs of close friends in emerging adulthood.
These results seem at first to fly in the face of media richness theory (Daft & Lengel, 1986), which proposes that the number of cues and channels available for communication relates directly to the exchange of richer information, as well as social presence theory (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1986), which suggests that these “richer” media allow for greater warmth and affection.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).This question is provocative, but difficult to test empirically.We summarize these feelings and commitment to the relationship with the term “bonding,” a central concept in our study. (2001), we term the nonverbal cues associated with bonding affiliation cues.
Given the evidence suggesting that this particular cluster of cues is a distinct indicator of feelings of affection in face-to-face interaction, we examined how affiliation cues change in mediated contexts.Nonetheless, a significantly lower level of bonding was experienced in IM compared with in-person communication.