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Computer-Mediated Communication in Personal Relationships

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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6. Relational Maintenance and CMC (Stephanie Tom Tong / Joseph B. Walther)

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CHAPTER SIX

Relational Maintenance and CMC

Stephanie Tom Tong1

Joseph B. Walther1, 2

Is Facebook the way to maintain old friendships? Is Twitter the latest development in far-flung family members’ efforts to stay in touch? Can economics theory explain why the mundane musings that make new media so very trivial are the very reason they are so successful relationally? The use of Internet technologies in the context of relationship maintenance—supporting and nurturing existing relationships over time—will be a major focus of research both with respect to comprehending the uses and functions which many social technologies provide, and also with respect to the most significant shift in how relational maintenance is conducted since the diffusion of the telephone. Since relational maintenance activities are performed more often than relationship initiation or termination (Duck, 1988), relational maintenance has become a popular research topic within the last two decades. The application of various Internet-based social technologies has led to extensive use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in the maintenance of relationships among friends, family members, and intimates. Because CMC is relatively new, and because of the consistent emergence of novel Internet applications that become appropriated for relational maintenance, there is a relatively little literature examining CMC’s role in the maintenance process. Additionally, little theoretical development has guided relational maintenance in offline contexts, making comparisons to electronic relational maintenance all the more difficult. This chapter attempts to help bridge the gap by reviewing existing research and...

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