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