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For strangers meeting for the first time, digital communication has been shown to enhance the intimacy and frequency of self-disclosure (Antheunis, Valkenburg, & Peter, 2007; Tidwell & Walther, 2002), and strangers meeting in text-based environments show higher affinity for one another than strangers meeting one another face-to-face (Antheunis et al., 2012, Bargh et al., 2002).
Given the frequency with which adolescents and young adults use digital tools to communicate with friends, we hope to shed light on their ability to feel emotionally bonded when using various tools.
While research has established that digital communication can enhance existing friendships over the long-term (e.g., Valkenburg & Peter, 2007, 2009), a continuing concern among some is that youth are less “connected” than they were in the past or that increasing digital communication contributes to stunted socioemotional or empathic growth (Small & Vorgan, 2008; Turkle, 2012).
This question is provocative, but difficult to test empirically.
Nonetheless, a significantly lower level of bonding was experienced in IM compared with in-person communication.
Because adolescent and emerging adults’ digital communication is primarily text-based, this finding has significant real-world implications.
However, bonding, as measured by both self-report and affiliation cues, differed significantly across conditions, with the greatest bonding during in-person interaction, followed by video chat, audio chat, and IM in that order.