26: College Students Spend More Time Communicating Face to Face than using Electronic Commuication Forms

Picture credits: Getty Images , Frank Ramspott
College aged students are generally known for their love and use of their phones, especially to keep in communication with their friends, so it may surprise many to know that according to new studies, college students use face to face communication as their preferred and primary form of communication. Computer mediated communication (CMC) is still very frequently used and can also provide benefits to the relationship. CMC includes any form of communication through an electronic device such as phone calls, text messages, emails, instant messaging, video calls, and more.

Gender, Relationship length, communication quality, and self disclosure were the factors studied to see how CMC affected college students

The study conducted to test the communication in relationships studied factors such as gender, relationship length, communication frequency, and forms of communication. There were 369 participants between the ages of 18-24. It is important to note that this study only used couples who were in close proximity to one another geographically.

Before the study began, each participant separately filled out a questionnaire about their demographics and relationship in relation to the topics stated above. They filled out a 1-5 Likert scale on how they felt their communication quality, self disclosure, and intimacy were in the relationship. The study moderators had the participants report every type of communication they had with their partner of the next three days. They recorded what device was used, and the length of time they were in contact and compared it after three days.

The most common method of communication was face to face. One hundred percent of the participants used face to face in the three days the study was conducted, for a median of 11.15 hours together. Text messaging and instant messaging platforms were the next two most commonly used platforms. The graphs to the right show the percent of participants who used each form of communication in relationship to the time spent using each one.

A second study was also found that looked at many of the same factors and reinforced the findings of this study. The moderator for this study gave extensive background and reported the exact findings for each demographic and ratings for communication and intimacy in the relationship.

CMC is used about half as much as in person communication, however CMC improves relationship communication and intimacy levels

Many couples integrate all forms of communication to help fit their lifestyle and accommodate their needs. I recently talked to a young woman who expressed that she and her significant other try to see each other face to face as much as possible, but their hectic schedules often force them to use CMC to bridge the gap when they are unable to. I talked to her a little further outside of the interview and she also discussed how she feels that while seeing one another in person, being able to communicate through CMC when they are apart helps them to feel closer, are able to talk about what is happening in their lives, and when they see each other again, they do not feel like time or distance has pushed them apart; they are able to pick up right where they left off. 

CMC also allows for couples to share photos and videos they have created for each other or have found on the Internet, connecting each other through a shared interest and being able to see what the other is interested in.

Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is believed to increase self disclosure and intimacy in relationships

The use of CMC allows for the user to interact and communicate with each other, even if the two users are far apart in distance. The study on CMC communication found that the length of the relationship did not necessarily decide the level of intimacy, but how often the couple communicated played a large role in the relationship's intimacy levels.  This proves that how much one is willing to talk about and self disclose with their significant other increases the intimacy level. Having CMC allows for a couple to self disclose and communicate whenever and wherever they are, creating an increase in intimacy levels and feeling closer with one's significant other.

The quality of a couples communication was also shown to increase when couples discussed a wider variety of topics, including more personal ones, over CMC. These couples not only felt closer with one another, but also felt they could communicate more and talk about anything instead of feeling neglected or limited.

While CMC is beneficial to a relationship, it also harbors negative consequences such as neglect and conflict

Having the option to use a device to communicate whenever and wherever is a wonderful thing, but it can cause damage when used inappropriately. The wrongful use of these devices can initiate fights, isolation, and trust issues.

The second study introduced gave accounts on how many participants do not respond to messages or calls as a form of punishment when they are angry. The majority who claimed to do this were female and stated if their significant other ignored them, they would think it is because something bad happened, not that they were angry. The males claimed that when they were ignored they knew it was because the other was angry, and did not usually suspect something bad happened.

A study done at Baylor University found that many couples complain about their significant other neglecting them for what is on their phone, or even hiding their phone from them. A survey of 145 adults in a relationship showed that 46.3% of respondents often were ignored or felt neglected at some point in the relationship due to their significant other spending more time on their phone. These negative behaviors can include not letting their phone leave their sight, paying attention to something on the phone while the other is talking, and also not allowing their phone to leave their hand. These actions can make the other feel less important, or can also make it seem like something is being hidden.

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