YOU, ME, AND IT: MULTIMEDIA RELATIONSHIP MAINTENANCE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Open Access
Author:
Hales, Kayla D
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
March 30, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Lynette Kvasny, Ph D, Dissertation Advisor
  • Lynette Kvasny, Committee Chair
  • Gerald Santoro, Committee Member
  • Andrea H Tapia, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • computer-mediated communication
  • information and communication technologies
  • interpersonal communication
  • interpersonal relationships
  • relational attributes
  • relational maintenance
Abstract:
The advancement of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has led to the re-conceptualization of relationships. Currently, multiple frameworks exist that detail the different behaviors individuals enact to maintain relationships. However, the only electronic media these relational maintenance typologies include is the telephone. This is a limitation of the literature: first, numerous ICTs exist and are being used for maintenance, and second computer-mediated communication (CMC) is being categorized only as a behavior and not also as a context. Previous research has demonstrated that computer-mediated interactions differ from in-person interactions. Therefore, a framework that incorporates CMC as a medium through which the maintenance of relationships occurs is merited. Analyzing data from 16 semi-structured interviews and 421 surveys, this study sought to overcome the limitations in the literature by examining interpersonal relational maintenance through the use of CMC. The overall research goals were (a) to explore how and why CMC is used to support the maintenance of non-platonic relationships that have been initiated in physical environments, (b) to examine the perceived influence of relational maintenance via CMC on relational attributes (i.e., commitment, control, liking, love, quality, satisfaction, stability, and trust), and (c) to explore whether the pre-existing relational maintenance model and typology could be applied to a CMC context, while classifying CMC as a medium. This study was composed of three phases: (a) interview data collection, (b) survey pilot, and (c) survey data collection. Participants in Phase 1 consisted of 16 adults who could report on their use of CMC in a current or past non-platonic relationship. A portion of these same adults participated in Phase 2 (N = 12) of the study. Phase 3 participants (N = 421) were adults who used CMC to maintain their pre-established, monogamous, heterosexual, non-platonic relationship that was initiated in a physical environment. Using textual analysis, descriptive statistics, factor analysis, and multivariate analysis of variance, seven research questions were addressed. Findings indicated that the structure of the RMS did not hold when examined in the context of CMC. The frequency with which relational maintenance behaviors (RMBs) were utilized indicated that positivity was used the most and social networks were used the least. Additionally, the overarching reason CMC was used for relational maintenance was because of a desire/need to interact with one’s partner (i.e., accessibility and connectedness). Overall, participants believed that using CMC for relational maintenance had a positive impact on their relational attributes. Finally, significant differences were found between RMBs enacted in CMC, the reasons individuals used CMC for relational maintenance, and the perception individuals had of the impact that RMBs enacted in CMC had on the relationship: These differences varied based on relational stage (seriously dating or married) and cohabitation status, but not gender. All of these findings have important implications for relational maintenance literature and relational maintenance execution. Avenues that future researchers may take as a step toward achieving the goal of understanding relational maintenance and how relationships are impacted by CMC enactments are detailed in this study. Ultimately, knowing and understanding this information may help determine how CMC and ICTs can be utilized to assist individuals in maintaining happy and healthy relationships.