Considerable research on computer-mediated communication has examined online communication between strangers, but little is known about the emotional experience of connectedness between friends in digital environments.However, adolescents and emerging adults use digital communication primarily to communicate with existing friends rather than to make new connections.We compared feelings of emotional connectedness as they occurred in person and through digital communication among pairs of close friends in emerging adulthood.
Bonding in each condition was measured through both self-report and affiliation cues (i.e., nonverbal behaviors associated with the emotional experience of bonding).
Participants reported feeling connected in all conditions.
However, bonding, as measured by both self-report and affiliation cues, differed significantly across conditions, with the greatest bonding during in-person interaction, followed by video chat, audio chat, and IM in that order.
Compared with other participants, those who used video chat more frequently reported greater bonding with friends through video chat in our study.
One way to address potential differences in digital and in-person communication is to compare them directly.
In developmental psychology, the existing literature on social media use, while increasingly sophisticated, has nonetheless relied primarily on survey-based approaches.
In the field of communication and media studies, on the other hand, a rich literature spanning from the middle of the 20th century to the present has experimentally compared in-person and computer-mediated communication (CMC).
However, it has been primarily concerned with the establishment of new relationships, rather than communication between existing friends. Drawing on the experimental traditions of CMC research, the present study aimed to directly compare digital and in-person communication between pairs of close, emerging-adult friends to ascertain potential differences in ability to foster bonding.
Compared with other participants, those who spoke on the phone more frequently with their participating friend reported greater bonding during audio chat.