In Toward a Theoretical Framework of Relational Maintenance in Computer-Mediated Communication, Mason and Carr argue the need for theoretical frameworks to advance the study of interpersonal relational maintenance in computer-mediated communication (CMC). To satisfy this need, they offer the solution of extending and adapting extant theories of offline relational maintenance to meditated instructions by addressing how CMC is likely integrated to sustain the underlying process of human interaction in new channels. They bring up the Social Penetration Theory (SPT) as they believe the building blocks of SPT are necessary for sustaining relationships.
Mason and Carr dive into the research by first defining relationship maintenance. Although there are many different definitions of the term, they discuss the work of Dindia and Canary (1993), in which they defined relationship maintenance as “keeping a relationship in satisfactory condition.” Mason and Carr argue that this definition allows for some “latitude and discretion concerning the type, stage, and/or closeness of a dyadic relationship as long as its condition is considered suitable by one or both of its members. In addition, they argue this definition holds heuristic value in “how individuals conceive of their various interpersonal connections.” Furthermore, they begin to dissect SPT and how it can serve as an extension for CMC. They state that “the means by which information is exchanged using modern CMC tools creates new avenues for understanding the disclosure of information varied in depth and breadth.” Their research suggests that the new flow of information over social media facilitates relational maintenance through ubiquity of channels and market penetration, ease of use for both communicative disclosure and receipt, lightweight feedback mechanisms, the possibility for passive observation and ambient awareness of relational partners, and algorithmic curation of relational activities.
I found this article interesting because it makes you question your own relationships and the impact of the flow of information via social media. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the concepts and terms that they introduced, but I could apply some of their findings to my everyday life. I thought about the popular phenomenon, “catfishing,” while reading. Most relationships start face to face and then overtime they adapt over technology. But, when relationships are born over social media platforms and remain that way with no face-to-face interaction. Many problems arise from this situation like “catfishing” because you can hide behind your screen. However, Mason and Carr are still left with many questions regarding the boundaries of the application of SPT to relational maintenance via CMC.