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Computer-Mediated Communication in Personal Relationships

Edited By Kevin B. Wright and Lynne M. Webb

This is the first collection of readings on computer-mediated communication focusing exclusively on interpersonal interactions. Examining messages exchanged via email, Twitter, Facebook, websites, and blogs, the authors analyze communication issues of ongoing importance in relationships including deception, disclosure, identity, influence, perception, privacy, sexual fidelity, and social support. The book examines subjects that attract intense student interest – including online performance of gender, online dating, and using computer-mediated communication to achieve family/work life balance – and will inspire further research and course development in the area of computer-mediated communication in personal relationships. Because it provides a synthesis of ideas at the nexus of interpersonal communication theory and computer-mediated communication theory, the book can serve as a textbook for advanced undergraduate as well as graduate courses.
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4. Microchannels and CMC: Short Paths to Developing, Maintaining, and Dissolving Relationships (Deborah Ballard-Reisch / Bobby Rozzell / Lou Heldman / David Kamerer)



Microchannels and CMC: Short Paths to Developing, Maintaining, and Dissolving Relationships

Deborah Ballard-Reisch

Bobby Rozzell

Lou Heldman

David Kamerer


The purpose of this chapter is to examine what foundation and emerging communication theories might offer an understanding of how individuals develop, maintain and dissolve interpersonal relationships using microchannel media. This chapter will examine six communication theories that have fruitfully been applied to analysis of the development of personal relationships: social construction theory (Berger & Luckmann, 1966), systems theory (Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson, 1967), social exchange theory (Thibault & Kelley, 1959), social penetration theory (Altman & Taylor, 1973), strong and weak ties theory (Granovetter, 1973), bridging and bonding theory (Putnam, 2000). In addition the potential contributions of four theories, either those not traditionally applied to relationship development, or newly emerging theories will be explored: uses and gratifications theory (Katz et al., 1974), social identity and deindividuation theory (SIDE) (Lea & Spears, 1992), social information processing theory (SIP) (Walther, 1992) and hyperpersonal theory (Walther, 1996). The objective of this chapter is to identify the unique contributions each theory might make to research on how individuals use microchannel media to facilitate relationship processes.

Since the advent of the Internet, communication researchers on one end of the spectrum have decried the threat of computer-mediated communication to meaningful social relationships (Bos, Olson, Gergle, Olson, & Wright, 2002; Herring, 1999; Joinson, 2001; Miller, 2008). Miller (2008) sees...

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