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'IM Me': Instant Messaging as Relational Maintenance and Everyday Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Instant Messaging, Page 7 the expected outcome would be greater difficulty in establishing and maintaining relationships on-line. Like other text-based formats, void of most nonverbal cue systems, IM would be expected to produce similar outcomes. The presumed importance of nonverbal and social cues also underlies many common approaches to relationship development and maintenance. As Lea and Spears (1995), Parks and Floyd (1996), and more recently Baym (2002) point out, text-based environments lack or restrict many of the physical qualities that interpersonal theories draw upon to explain relational processes. Theoretical approaches such as social penetration theory (Altman & Taylor, 1972), uncertainty reduction theory (Berger & Calabrese, 1975), and predicted outcome value theory (Sunnafrank, 1986) presume that proxemic, visual, and other nonverbal cues are essential for achieving relational development. Qualities such as physical appearance, vocalic cues (e.g., pitch, tone, accent, etc.), and other social markers that serve as sources for attributions, social judgments, and approach-avoid relational decisions are unavailable in text-based on-line environments. It is worth noting that although most theories of relational development were proposed prior to the mass diffusion of the Internet, and therefore did not anticipate their application to on-line environments, they too suggest that reliance on text-based, reduced cue, formats would make it more difficult to pursue relationships than through FtF interaction. This bias is also evident in the literature on relational maintenance. Scholars who have approached this area from a communication perspective have focused on developing taxonomies of strategic behaviors individuals employ to sustain their involvements (cf. Canary & Stafford, 1992). Reflected in the literature are several classification schemes (see Dindia, 1994), most of which implicitly assume the physical co-presence of one’s partner; behaviors such as “togetherness” strategies, which include spending time together or engaging in joint activities

Authors: Ramirez, Artemio. and Broneck, Kathy.
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background image
Instant Messaging, Page 7
the expected outcome would be greater difficulty in establishing and maintaining relationships
on-line. Like other text-based formats, void of most nonverbal cue systems, IM would be
expected to produce similar outcomes.
The presumed importance of nonverbal and social cues also underlies many common
approaches to relationship development and maintenance. As Lea and Spears (1995), Parks and
Floyd (1996), and more recently Baym (2002) point out, text-based environments lack or restrict
many of the physical qualities that interpersonal theories draw upon to explain relational
processes. Theoretical approaches such as social penetration theory (Altman & Taylor, 1972),
uncertainty reduction theory (Berger & Calabrese, 1975), and predicted outcome value theory
(Sunnafrank, 1986) presume that proxemic, visual, and other nonverbal cues are essential for
achieving relational development. Qualities such as physical appearance, vocalic cues (e.g.,
pitch, tone, accent, etc.), and other social markers that serve as sources for attributions, social
judgments, and approach-avoid relational decisions are unavailable in text-based on-line
environments. It is worth noting that although most theories of relational development were
proposed prior to the mass diffusion of the Internet, and therefore did not anticipate their
application to on-line environments, they too suggest that reliance on text-based, reduced cue,
formats would make it more difficult to pursue relationships than through FtF interaction.
This bias is also evident in the literature on relational maintenance. Scholars who have
approached this area from a communication perspective have focused on developing taxonomies
of strategic behaviors individuals employ to sustain their involvements (cf. Canary & Stafford,
1992). Reflected in the literature are several classification schemes (see Dindia, 1994), most of
which implicitly assume the physical co-presence of one’s partner; behaviors such as
“togetherness” strategies, which include spending time together or engaging in joint activities


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