Title

I can't get no satisfaction...or can I? Interpersonal communication in computer-mediated relationships

Date of Completion

January 2002

Keywords

Psychology, Social|Speech Communication|Mass Communications

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

The present study offers an exploration into computer-mediated communication, relationship emergence, and satisfaction. The internet has grown into a global network connecting between 30 and 40 million people in 1996 (Parks & Floyd, 1996), and reportedly up to one billion (Walther, 1996) as we enter the new millennium. Aside from its sheer size, this new social milieu commands scholarly attention because it is a way in which messages come from a wide variety of participants with little or no centralized control (Rafaeli & LaRose, 1993). Moreover, it is evident that although contradictory to the current theories of relationship emergence, personal relationships are definitely forming via computer-mediated communication. ^ Specifically, the present study provides empirical evidence (n = 642) as to how three trait variables (esteem, disinhibition, and verbal aggressiveness) act as predictors to the state variables of communication of affect, communication satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction. Of particular interest is the longitudinal nature of the study. The repeated measures allow us to establish the direction of causality. Differences between the research group and control group were found to be significant, as expected. Notably, findings demonstrate that members of the research group reported much higher levels of disinhibition, verbal aggressiveness, communication of affect, communication satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction. ^ The present study, thus, promises to add to the literature and answer many prevailing questions. The results presented in the current study successfully demonstrate two very important findings; (1) there exist significant differences between the level(s) at which the variables operate (with on-line subjects reporting much higher levels of disinhibition, verbal aggressiveness, communication of affect, communication satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction than those involved in face-to-face romantic relationships); and (2) although those involved in computer-mediated romantic relationships report higher levels of these variables, the variables nonetheless operate in much the same way as they do in face-to-face relationships, with the trait variables predicting the state variables. Thus, we can see the communication process remains similar regardless of the context, however it is the degree/level to which the process is used that differs between groups. ^