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Running head: TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS

Texting and distance: The impact of mediated communications Valarie A. Udeh COMM 614

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS


Introduction The mobile phone, originally introduced as a business communications tool, has shifted the format and frequency in which individuals communicate. Technology has created levels of communication that range from extended dialogue through mobile phone conversations and email messages via the internet to quick messages through Short Message Service (SMS) or texting. According to Sun, Hullman and Wang (2005), . . . the build in nature of new [mobile] technologies affords a new platform where interactions take place and results in a new multifaceted mode of communication that is intrapersonal, interpersonal and hyperpersonal (p. 7). With millions of mobile phones in use, there is a unique relationship between the device and its user. As explained by Haste (2005), the mobile phone is part of ones identity, serves as an extension of ones physical self, and allows the user to interact differently with the world. The mobile phone, in particular texting, has shifted the manner in which individuals communicate, even interact, to manage, sustain, and deepen close personal relationship. This paper will propose a research project to understand the impact of texting on interpersonal communications and the need for distance to protect and promote the relationship. The impact of meditated communications, which includes text messaging, has been the topic of many recent research studies. Haste (2005) studied young adults mobile phone habits, texting and channel preference based on the message to be delivered. Sun, Hullman, and Wang (2011) studied individual motivations that influenced channel preference. Their work includes

mobile phone, texting, email, instant messaging, and face-to-face communication. Fisher (2004) studied the difference between talkers and texters and the motivations for their channel preference. This proposed research project will expand existing bodies of work by offering

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS


additional insight into the effect of SMS on the physical and psychological distance required to ensure individuals in close relationships focus on the relationships and not on themselves. Literature Review

In order to ground the topic of texting and its impact on personal relationship, this section will provide a definition for relationships, identify a critical component of interpersonal communications that maintains the ethical good of the relationship, and explore the role and effect of SMS in managing relationships. According to Blumstein and Kollack (1988), a relationship [between two interdependent participants] is comprised of a series of related interactions, each affected by past episodes, and in turn affecting future interactions. But even a series of interactions between the same individuals does not constitute a relationship unless the interactions are interrelated and affect the other (p. 468). In addition, relationships are built on unique patterns of interdependence, conflict resolution, interpersonal and private norms and culture and interactional habits. (Blumstein & Kollack, 1998) A close relationship, as defined by Blumstein and Kollack (1998), is one in which the amount of interdependence is high; that is, a close relationship is one of strong, frequent, and diverse interdependence that lasts over a considerable period of time ( p. 469). As Arnett, Fritz and Bell noted, interpersonal communications deals with the relationship between small groups of two to four individuals. In addition, the authors noted the developmental aspect of interpersonal communication is focused on increasing recognition of the relational responsibility emerging between and/or among the communicative partners (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009 p. 122).

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS


Interpersonal communications is focused on the relationship not the individuals in the relationships. Arnett, Fritz, and Bell (2009) explained, is not about me or you; it is about a coconstituted communicative benchmark . . . that calls both parts to accountability for something that defines interpersonal communication the relationship (p. 120). As stated earlier by Blumstein and Kollack, close relationships reflect strong, frequent,

and sustained interdependence over a notable amount of time. Through their work, Arnett, Fritz, and Bell, would offer that the closeness described by Blumstein and Kollack may need to take into account the importance of distance in helping individuals put their relationships above the needs of each other. Arnett, Bell, and Fritz (2009) offered that the privileging of relationships begins, ironically, with the necessity of interpersonal distance. Relationships need space to growth and change, an assumption that runs counter to the popular assumptions of the need for closeness in relationships (p. 123). As the authors noted, distance is necessary in relationships because it helps people remain together and keeps the individuals in the relationship from attempting to turn each other into themselves. Distance permits us to see the details more clearly. The particular matters so much that one must honor distance, permitting one to see with clarity (Arnett, Bell & Fritz, 2009, p. 124) Licioppe (2004) conducted a study to explore how meditated communications allow for the development of specific patterns in the construction of social bonds. Survey participants represented close relationships such as friends, girlfriends, boyfriends and people the participants saw most. Licioppe first explored how relationships maybe shaped and managed using landline telephones, the mobile phone, and mobile text messaging. The second half of the study focused

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS

on the gradual shift between the three studied communication technologies to created new forms of connected relationships. In his work, Licioppe disclosed that many survey participants indicated, one of many reasons given by users [for using texting] was the length of the message. With close friends, the density of the experience shared in an intense and lasting relationship allows for the use of codes, allusions, and veiled references (Licioppe, 2004, 149). In addition, Licioppe, explained, SMS can constitute a resource, not of a tactical nature but of a strategic nature in the management of relationships (Licioppe, 2004, p. 151). Survey participants also indicated that texting contributes significantly to strengthening telephonic presence through frequent small gestures. The author also stated that SMS is a thought at that moment, and [does not] bother the other person (Licioppe, 2004, p. 130). The use of SMS seems to allow users to decontextualize their interactions more. Almost all [survey participants] refer to anywhere, anytime, emphasizing the impulsive nature of the message apparently detached from habits and routine. The sending of short messages seems to be totally spontaneous (Licioppe, 2004, p. 130). Mobile phones have dramatically expanded the format and frequency individuals communication with one another. Reid and Reid (2004) conducted research on the social and psychological effect of text messaging. Their work indicated that . . . 80% of those sampled in a [Nokia-conducted] survey reported text-messaging as the most used function of their mobiles (Reid & Reid, 2004, p.1) Through their research, Reid and Reid (2004) also explained that for a significant number of users, sending a text message may be more important for building and maintaining social relationships than for coordinating practical arrangements. The immediacy, mobility, and

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS


perpetual accessibility afforded by the mobile phone allow near-conversation levels of

synchronous texting . . . (Reid & Reid, 2004, p.2). The authors also cited a study that indicated that a majority of messages reviewed from texters focused on friendship maintenance, romantic, and social functions associated with highly intimate and relational concerns. Texting message . . . seems to provide an opportunity for intimate personal contact while at the same time offering detachment necessary to manage self presentation and involvement (Reid & Reid, 2004, p. 2). Kim and Mitomo (2006) conducted a study to examine how relationships with friends could be affected by dependency on mobile telephones and noted: The analysis of thier paper showed that despite the existence of somewhat different patterns of factor interdependency influencing the relationship with friends and acquaintances . . . communication through mobile telephones has a relatively low impact on the actual depth or width of relationships. As a result, communications via the mobile platform can be considered to be of a superficial nature, maintaining the strength of relationships developed through other communications media suggests that there are indeed significant opportunities for establishing better and closer relationships among friends using mobile telephones. (p. 81) Solis (2007) analyzed several existing studies on texting and its impact on romantic relationships. The studies were conducted in the Philippines where there is an exceptionally high penetration of mobile users. At the time of the Solis work, of the 15 million households in the country, an estimated 2.5 million had cellular phones and 2.3 million had text-messaging capability. Solis(2007) analysis provided insight into the role texting plays in maintaining and deepening romantic relationship. Since most . . . couples in a romantic relationship did not have

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS

the luxury of time to meet up in person or talk over the phone regularly, the frequency of texting became a distinct indication about their commitment to their relationships (Solis, 2007, para. 26). Study participants indicated that regular texting allowed them to strengthen both the bond with and connection to their partners and helped to build trust. Solis (2007) also indicated that study participants felt that texting also allowed then to maintain a 24/7 relationship. Some respondents pointed out textings convenient nature of linking partners who are rather separated by physical and geographical limits (Solis, 2007, para. 27). In addition, the regularity of texting strengthened the commitment between partners and as suggested by most of the respondents, indicates the capacity of the mobile phone to transform into an extension of the human body and connect partners intimately (Solis, 2007, para. 27). In conclusion, through the examination of several scholarly articles and publications, there appears to be significant research on the role and impact of texting and to manage and sustain relationships. Research indicates the influence of texting on relationship attributes such as closeness, connection, intimacy, and commitment; however, there appears to be a lack of notable research on the impact and influence of texting on maintaining and preserving distance in close personal relationships. Rationale For many individuals, especially teens and young adults, texting is becoming the preferred means of communicating to friends and family. A generations growing reliance on texting to communicate is transforming how relationships are developed, managed, and sustained. In fact, the very essence of what constitutes a relationship may be redefined and the need for distance to nurture the relationship may become more virtual than measured by actual space or time.

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS

Wortham (2010) in her New York Times article on cell phone usage shifting from calling to data stated that almost 90 percent of households in the United States now have a cellphone, [and] the growth in voice minutes used by consumers has stagnated, according to government and industry data (para. 2). The International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications (CTIA) indicates that text message usage has nearly increased by 50 percent since 2009. Telecommunication industry analyst also indicated that for the first time in the United States, the amount of data in text, email messages, streaming video, music and other services on mobile devices in 2009 surpassed the amount of voice data in cellphone calls (Wortham, 2010, para.8 ). Wortham (2010) wrote that American teenagers have been ahead of the curve for a while, turning their cellphones into texting machines; more than half of them send about 1,500 text messages each month (para. 6). Wortham (2010) also cited one of her interviewees realization that her 12-year daughters ability to develop bonds with her schoolmates was being hindered since she did not have a cell phone and lacked the ability to text. Baron and Ling (n.a.) conducted a study on emerging patterns of mobile phone usage in the United States. Their work revealed that college students overwhelmingly ranked texting over talking on the phone due to its convenience and the ability to manage their time based on the nature of their message. In addition, Baron and Ling (n.a.) noted that many of the students in their survey explained how contemporary communication devices and software (e.g., speakerphones, call waiting, caller ID, and distinctive ring tones) increasingly enables [them] to control our access to other people and their access to [them]. Baron and Ling (n.a.) data, [also] suggest [that] college students seek conversational control by choosing texting over talk (p. 19.)

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS


The role of mediated messaging and its impact on interpersonal communication is apparent. This proposed study will add to existing research by exploring how continuous personal access through texting impacts the distance needed to keep a focus on the relationships and not on the individuals in it. Theoretical Assumptions and Impact of Texting on Distance in interpersonal communication This study will use dialogic theory to explore the impact of texting on distance in interpersonal communication. According to Thomilson (n.a.) in dialogic communication each participant possesses genuine concern for ones partner instead of as a means to an end. The author noted that dialogue is characterized by trust, openness, spontaneity, caring, sensitivity,

sincerity and empathy. As we move toward deeper, honest forms of interpersonal interaction, we are also moving toward dialogue (Thomilson, n.a., para. 3). Thomilson (n.a.) also cited wellknown philosopher Martin Bubers I-Thou and I-It dialogic concept when explaining, the meaning of messages is cogenerated by the participants rather than being dictated by one. The shared meaning and the relationship are unique creations of both parties to the interaction (para. 6). As described by Thomlison (n.a.) an I-Thou relationship possesses mutual openness. This characteristic, one of six of an I-Thou relationship, is defined by behavior patterns and attitudes of those participating in dialogue possess the qualities of mutuality, open-heartedness, directness, spontaneity, lack of pretense, non-manipulative intent, communion, intensity, and love in the sense of responsibility of one human for another (Thomlison, n.a., para. 7). Mutual openness will be used as a lens to analyze the impact of dialogue created through texting on establishing, maintaining or hindering distance in a relationship and if the impact is shared by

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS


individuals in it. The study will be guided by the following research questions: RQ1: What is the impact of dialogue created through texting on the concept of distance in a relationship? RQ2: Does texting redefine the concept of distance in interpersonal communications? RQ3: Does texting have little or no impact on already established distance in relationships? The importance of this research is that it continues to add to the conversation regarding

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interpersonal relationships and meditated communications in particular texting. This writer does enter this study with a bias based on the recent usage of texting as a means to establish new friendships and manage business responsibilities. Methodology A mix of qualitative research methodologies are recommended for this study. According to Creswell (2009), qualitative inquiry employs different philosophical assumptions; strategies of inquiry; and methods of data collection, analysis, and interpretation (p. 173). Creswell (2009) went on to state that qualitative researchers choose from among possibilities, such as narrative, phenomenology, ethnography, case study, and grounded theory (p. 176). Twenty dyads comprised of friends or partners who define their relationship as close and text between ten to twenty messages to each other a day will be interviewed. The interview analysis will be coupled with an analysis of the text messages members of each dyad sent to each other. By combining data gathered through interviews and content analysis, researchers will be able to determine patterns in the described feelings from the interviews about distance and the sentiments reflected in text messages. Swanson and Holton (2005) state that qualitative data

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS


analysis is a process that entails sensing theme, constant comparison, recursiveness, inductive and deductive thinking and interpretation that generate meaning (p. 236). Conclusion

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Interpersonal relationship communications ethics puts the relationship as the good to be protected and promoted. An important aspect of the relationship is establishing and maintaining distance in order to ensure individuals focus on the relationship and not each other. Preserving the relationship should be the top priority of those who comprise it. Current meditated communications offers several formats for frequent communication between family members and friends. Texting, especially for teenagers and young adults, is now the preferred method for communicating. Texting is convenient, allows for spontaneity and offers the ability to manage relationships minute to minute. The importance of distance in a relationship has not shifted but how distance is defined may be. The proposed research project will add to the growing body of knowledge about interpersonal communications and mediated communications.

TEXTING AND DISTANCE: THE IMPACT OF MEDIATED COMMUNICATIONS


Reference Arnett, R., L., B., & Fritz, J. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue and Difference. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

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Baron, N. S. (n. a). Emerging patterns of American mobile phone use: Electronically-mediated communication in transition. Retrieved from http://www.american.edu/cas/lfs/facultydocs/upload/Emerging-Patterns-of-American-Mobile-Phone-Use-3.pdf Blumstein, P. and Kollack, P. (1998). Personal relationships. Annual Reviews Sociology, 14, 467-490. Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Los Angeles: Sage Publishing Haste, H. (2005). Joined-up texting: mobile phones and young people. Young Consumers, 2, 5667. Kim, A. and Mitomo, H. (2006). Impact of mobile usage on the interpersonal relations. Communications and strategies, 61 Licoppe, C. (2004). Connected presence: the emergence of a new repertoire for managing social relationships in a changing communication technoscape. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 22, 135 -136. Ling, R. (n.a) Emerging-Patterns-of-American-Mobile-Phone-Use-3. Retrieved from Telenor http://www.american.edu/cas/lfs/faculty-docs/upload/Emerging-Patterns-of-AmericanMobile-Phone-Use-3.pdf Reid, D & Reid, F. (2004). Insights into the Social and Psychological Effects of SMS Text Messaging. Retrieved from http://www.160characters.org/documents/SocialEffectsOfTextMessaging.pdf

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Solis, R. (Mar. 2007) Texting love: An exploration of text messaging as a medium for romance in the Philippines, M/C Journal, 10(1). Retrieved 05 Dec. 2011 from http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0703/05-solis.php. Sun, S., Hullman, G., & Wang, Y. (2011). Communicating in the multichannel age: Interpersonal communication, motivation, interaction involvement and channel affinity, Journal of Media and Communications 3(1). 7-15. Swanson, R. A., & Holton, E. F., III. (Eds.). (2005). Research in organizations: Foundations and methods of inquiry. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler. Thomlison, D., (n.a.) Monologic and dialogic communication. Retrieved from http://faculty.evansville.edu/dt4/301/Dialogue.html Wortham, J. (2010). Cellphones now used more for data than for. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/14/technology/personaltech/14talk.html