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'IM Me': Instant Messaging as Relational Maintenance and Everyday Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Instant Messaging, Page 12 communication medium for teens than adults (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2001). One goal of the present study is to determine whether a similar pattern emerges among respondents. RQ2: What individual-level characteristics (e.g., age, gender) distinguish individuals who use IM to maintain relationships from those that do not? Other questions regarding the use of IM as a social tool for sustaining relationships remain unexplored. Little previous research exists to suggest the types of relationships maintained via IM. Consistent with the discussion above, research on other forms of CMC use suggests that family relationships and friendships would be the most likely beneficiaries (e.g., Stafford et al., 1999). Similar results are reported in studies examining its use in the workplace (Nardi et al., 2000). Surprisingly overlooked in studies such as these is the use of CMC tools in maintaining romantic relationships concurrently managed off-line. It is likely that IM functions to enact those relationships in a manner analogous to more traditional tools, such as the telephone (LaCohee & Anderson, 2001), which provide an efficient, synchronous, and more immediate form of communication than e-mail (Nardi et al., 2000). With this in mind, the next research question asks: RQ3: What types of relationships are maintained through IM? Early theoretical perspectives argued that structural differences between interactive communication technologies and FtF interaction should be reflected in the type of communication produced (see Walther, 1996, for a review). More contemporary perspectives argue that communication in computer-mediated environments, especially text-based ones, is not simply a product of the limited amount of nonverbal and social information afforded to communicators. Rather, differences in the quality of communication, if any, should emerge in initial phases of relationship formation and dissipate over time as messages accrue and

Authors: Ramirez, Artemio. and Broneck, Kathy.
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Instant Messaging, Page 12
communication medium for teens than adults (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2001). One
goal of the present study is to determine whether a similar pattern emerges among respondents.
RQ2: What individual-level characteristics (e.g., age, gender) distinguish individuals who use IM
to maintain relationships from those that do not?
Other questions regarding the use of IM as a social tool for sustaining relationships remain
unexplored. Little previous research exists to suggest the types of relationships maintained via
IM. Consistent with the discussion above, research on other forms of CMC use suggests that
family relationships and friendships would be the most likely beneficiaries (e.g., Stafford et al.,
1999). Similar results are reported in studies examining its use in the workplace (Nardi et al.,
2000). Surprisingly overlooked in studies such as these is the use of CMC tools in maintaining
romantic relationships concurrently managed off-line. It is likely that IM functions to enact those
relationships in a manner analogous to more traditional tools, such as the telephone (LaCohee &
Anderson, 2001), which provide an efficient, synchronous, and more immediate form of
communication than e-mail (Nardi et al., 2000). With this in mind, the next research question
asks:
RQ3: What types of relationships are maintained through IM?
Early theoretical perspectives argued that structural differences between interactive
communication technologies and FtF interaction should be reflected in the type of
communication produced (see Walther, 1996, for a review). More contemporary perspectives
argue that communication in computer-mediated environments, especially text-based ones, is not
simply a product of the limited amount of nonverbal and social information afforded to
communicators. Rather, differences in the quality of communication, if any, should emerge in
initial phases of relationship formation and dissipate over time as messages accrue and


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