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'IM Me': Instant Messaging as Relational Maintenance and Everyday Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Instant Messaging, Page 8 (Dindia & Baxter, 1987), and “sharing tasks,” which include engaging in physical tasks (Canary & Stafford, 1992), suggest the need for close proximity between partners. As Stafford, Kline, and Dimmick (1999) note, “…to date most work on relational maintenance…operates under the assumption that maintaining relationships is something people do only in face-to-face interaction, without the use of technology” (p. 660). This bias may simply be a result of two influences. First, like the aforementioned approaches to relationship development, these behavioral schemes predate the widespread adoption of interactive communication technologies such as e-mail and IM. Second, these schemes are based primarily on data gathered from married or romantically involved couples, which likely reflect a cultural bias in favor of managing relationships through FtF interaction (Cummings, Butler, & Kraut, 2002). Nevertheless, the fact that most typologies include behaviors that can be enacted through mediated and unmediated communication formats irrespective of the type of relationship remains largely ignored (see Dainton & Aylor, 2002, for an exception). Contemporary theory and research on CMC offers evidence to the contrary and challenges the presumed primacy of nonverbal cues for developing and sustaining social connections. This literature suggests that the findings reported above may be inapplicable to ongoing relationships and limited to initial interactions or groups lacking a commitment to future interaction or relational history (Walther, 1996; Walther, Slovacek, & Tidwell, 2001). Research by Walther and colleagues (cf. Walther, Anderson, & Park, 1994) clearly illustrates that more time to communicate and/or more frequent interaction is needed to accommodate the slower rate of information exchange that occurs via CMC systems. Several studies illustrate the prevalence of relationships developed in on-line group environments, many of which approach or even surpass the level of development achieved through FtF interaction (cf. Walther & Burgoon, 1992). In one

Authors: Ramirez, Artemio. and Broneck, Kathy.
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Instant Messaging, Page 8
(Dindia & Baxter, 1987), and “sharing tasks,” which include engaging in physical tasks (Canary
& Stafford, 1992), suggest the need for close proximity between partners. As Stafford, Kline,
and Dimmick (1999) note, “…to date most work on relational maintenance…operates under the
assumption that maintaining relationships is something people do only in face-to-face
interaction, without the use of technology” (p. 660). This bias may simply be a result of two
influences. First, like the aforementioned approaches to relationship development, these
behavioral schemes predate the widespread adoption of interactive communication technologies
such as e-mail and IM. Second, these schemes are based primarily on data gathered from married
or romantically involved couples, which likely reflect a cultural bias in favor of managing
relationships through FtF interaction (Cummings, Butler, & Kraut, 2002). Nevertheless, the fact
that most typologies include behaviors that can be enacted through mediated and unmediated
communication formats irrespective of the type of relationship remains largely ignored (see
Dainton & Aylor, 2002, for an exception).
Contemporary theory and research on CMC offers evidence to the contrary and challenges
the presumed primacy of nonverbal cues for developing and sustaining social connections. This
literature suggests that the findings reported above may be inapplicable to ongoing relationships
and limited to initial interactions or groups lacking a commitment to future interaction or
relational history (Walther, 1996; Walther, Slovacek, & Tidwell, 2001). Research by Walther
and colleagues (cf. Walther, Anderson, & Park, 1994) clearly illustrates that more time to
communicate and/or more frequent interaction is needed to accommodate the slower rate of
information exchange that occurs via CMC systems. Several studies illustrate the prevalence of
relationships developed in on-line group environments, many of which approach or even surpass
the level of development achieved through FtF interaction (cf. Walther & Burgoon, 1992). In one


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