Computer Mediated Communication in Long Distance Relationships

In Channels of Computer-Mediated Communication and Satisfaction in Long-Distance Relationships, Hampton et al. found that “the frequency of utilizing various channels of communication was associated with relationship satisfaction and communication satisfaction.” (p. 171). They argue that “if face-to-face contact is limited, couples should find other ways to create a sense of a shared social presence in real time,” which was facilitated most effectively via Skype and text messaging in the study. (p. 184).

The authors combine multiple theories to understand the impacts of computer-mediated communication, including media richness theory, social information processing theory, and the hyperpersonal model of CMC. Together, “the theories converge on the notion that communication in certain mediums, even if minimal in its richness, is just as important in LDRs as it is in geographically-close relationships.” (p. 173). Previous studies on long-distance relationships found that “the more time that the participants reported using the various communication technologies, the higher their scores on a relational maintenance measure,” and that a “sense of shared space can aid in emotional closeness.” (p. 174). This led to the authors’ research questions: ‘Which Communication Channels Do People in Long-Distance Relationships Use Most Often?’ (p. 177) and ‘Which Media of Communication Are Most Highly Associated With Relationship Satisfaction and Communication Satisfaction?’ (p. 179). Through their survey study administered via Reddit and Facebook, Hampton et al. found that “people used text messaging the most and Snapchat the least,” (p. 177) “an avenue in which one can see the partner most strongly affects relationship and communication satisfaction” and “Skype was the sole predictor of relationship satisfaction; and picture messaging and Skype were the sole predictors of communication satisfaction.” (p. 179).

As one who has experienced long-distance relationships, these results make sense; I have personally felt more connected with my significant other through video chatting (I use FaceTime because I have an iPhone), and my most frequent mode of communication with them was texting. However, I am interested in how these specific CMC options differ—is there a commonality in the ways that couples use Skype vs. texting; for example, are they more likely to use Skype or texting to argue? Additionally, the authors mention that they did not investigate why the LDR couples were separated (p. 183), how would these differences impact the way couples communicate?

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