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Electronically Mediated Communication Essay

Our everyday communication involves talking to friends, lovers, family members, acquaintances, co-workers and people in service positions. We do this routinely, usually without much thought, unless some problem occurs or the relationship starts to take a turn for the worse. Then we become painfully aware of the poor communication we have had with another. We’ve probably all had relationships that slipped away because we couldn’t talk to each other or didn’t bother to try.

In this chapter we will look at the mundane, yet remarkable, process of dyadic (one-on-one), Electronically Mediated Interpersonal Communication. We’ll take a topical approach to the subject of Electronically Mediated Interpersonal Communication, examining a broad array of topics studies done on the subject at hand. We will begin with an examination of cell phone usage processes and then spend time on the role of communication in the formation, maintenance, and dissolution of relationships of all types. You will learn new terms and theories and how they can apply to your own relationships and communication abilities using Electronically Mediated Interpersonal Communication.

Cell phones

Cell phones are becoming an integral part of our daily lives. It is no surprise that a ground breaking study just released says mobile technology has permanently changed the way we work, live, and love. Commissioned by Motorola, this new behavioral study took researchers to nine cities worldwide from New York to London. Using a combination of personal interviews, field studies, and observation, the study identified a variety of behaviors that demonstrate the dramatic impact cell phones are having on the way people interact.

The study found cell phones give people a newfound personal power, enabling unprecedented mobility and allowing them to conduct their business on the go. Interesting enough, gender differences can be found in phone use. Women see their cell phone as a means of expression and social communication, while males tend to use it as an interactive toy. Some men view the cell phone as a status symbol – competing with other males for the most high tech toy and even using the cell phone to seduce the opposite sex. The study found two types of cell phone users- “innies,” who use their phones discreetly, and “outies,” who are louder and less concerned with the people around them.

The report, titled On the Mobile, has labeled today’s teenagers “The Thumb Generation.” Cell phones are often used by the younger generation to send text messages by typing with their thumbs on the phone’s keypad. Believe it or not, this has had a profound effect on the way teenagers use their thumbs. Thumb dexterity has improved so much that some teenagers now point and even ring doorbells with their thumb instead of their forefinger. The use of these two-way text messaging devices has also resulted in “generation text,” a language of abbreviations that is understood by the young all over the world.

Yet cell phones are not just for the young. The cell phone has made long distance communications easy. GSM phones that place calls worldwide have turned the universe into a global village. They are helping people from all generations cross cultural and physical borders. Mobile technology, specifically the use of cell phones, has become an internal part of today’s life all around the globe.

Cell phones have become so second nature in our society that the daily answering of your cell phone when having a face to face interaction with a friend, spouse, or acquaintance becomes a first priority (Kelly calls me) and is no longer viewed as an interruption, but rather seen as a status symbol. This is also problematic because it has made our conversations become public for all to hear no longer having those intimate private talks, now anyone who is around you can listen in and become part of our conversations..

There currently over 170 million users in the United States and growing by 1 million every month.

Cell Phone Usage

In a June 2000 Cellular One survey of college students [6], the students reported the following as the most important reasons for purchasing a cell phone:

– Emergencies (47%)

– To contact significant others (44%)

– To keep in touch with family members (58%)

– To coordinate social activities (32%)

In the same survey students reported that the reasons they actually used their cell phones were:

– Optimize time — make calls while walking or driving (56.6%)

– Emergencies (35.5%)

– Coordinate social activities (7.0%)

Juanita gives example of cell phone use.

Participation Question: How do you react to someone using there cell phone in a public place? For instance when you are seating down in the theater getting ready to see the movie and someone’s cell phones goes off? What doe you do? What’s your reaction?

Have them write down answer then share with class.


Another form of Electronically Mediated Interpersonal Communication is the Internet. Electronic communication is usually transmitted via the internet. Which is an international electronic computer network made up of smaller computer networks. The internet is an information management system made up of information providers and information seekers. This idea of linking computers came to fruition in the mid 1960’s. In 1983 this network became known collectively as the internet. The World Wide Web is part of the internet where information is presented.

Here are some terms that are associated with the internet. Go online to show examples.

* Webpages- are somewhat like pages in a book that include both pictures and text.

* Websites- Are a collection of webpages belonging to the same organization or person.

* Home page- Is the first page of a website.

* Browser- Is a program that enables you to search millions of websites otherwise known as surfing the net. These programs include Netsacpe, Explore, just to name a few.

* Uniform resource locator or URL- The path name of a domain.

* Bookmark- Stores favorite sites that you would like to re-visit.

* Search engines- Identifies websites and corresponding URL’s like google and yahoo.

Give some stats on internet usage in the United States. Write on board (Kelly).

Internet usage among Americans are as followed:

Women use the internet 67%

Men use the internet 69% more that women

Now we will also break down internet usage by age:

18-29 84%

30-49 80%

50-64 67%

65+ 26%

As you can see the usage is cut drastically as we move into the older generation. The older generations did not have the accessibility to these new electronic mediated forms of communication. Younger generations have practically been raised with these devices in place and are part of their everyday lives.

Another part of being online is emails. This is a written form of communication sent via the internet. Email is the largest application of internet technology. In the early 90’s email was an option available mostly for interoffice communication. Only a small number of people were experimenting with emails as a general means to communication. Today of the 75% of teens online, email accounts for most of their one on one contacts. Email has two major advantages: one its fast and two its unlimited.

But unlike traditional mail, email is public and not private. People can intercept and read nearly any message sent using the right software. So once again privacy is no longer an objective, but convenience has become the number one priority in our lives. This is seen in the way we communicate in emails. So fast paced has our lives become that we now abbreviate words and thoughts into mere letters, like B.F.N. which stands for BYE FOR NOW. Not only has communication become shorter, but also less meaningful. Over 36 billion emails are sent on a daily basis worldwide. We must remember that emails are forms of communication and should be treated as any other form of public interaction, that is respect.

Here are some skills that should be kept in mind when using this form of electronically mediated interpersonal communication:


1. USING PRECISE, CONCRETE WORDS– Since tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures and other nonverbal means we use to communicate are virtually nonexistent in cyber communication, you need to be especially careful with the words you use when writing to another person. “What do you say we get together sometime” does little more than express an interest in meeting, but say you were to include times you are available, and a potential date for meeting, the other person will be more likely to accept an invitation to meet because they see it as a possibility rather than an abstract idea.

2. PROVIDING DETAILS AND EXAMPLES – Once again, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Being too short in an email to someone could likely cause miscommunication. However, providing details and examples can help to clear up any confusion.

3. DESCRIBE YOUR FEELINGS – Clear content (ideas, details, explanation, feelings) helps the receiver understand not only what you’re talking about, but how the subject at hand makes you feel. If I were to email someone and tell them “I ran out of gas today, smashed my toe on the wall, and got to work late”, they would have assume that I was not having a good day, but wouldn’t be able to tell how it had made me feel. Now if I were to say “I had a horrible morning. I smashed my toe on the wall while I was running out of the house, ran out of gas on the way to work and showed up 20 minutes late. I’m feeling so stressed and upset!” the receiver of my information would definitely get a clear picture of how the morning made me feel.

4. PRESENT YOUR IDEAS POLITELY – When we’re online there’s a tendency to separate ourselves from the person we’re talking with. Sometimes this leads to saying things in a way that others will perceive as offensive. Say Kyle and Chris got in an argument a few days ago. Rather than simply saying “Chris I want to talk about what happened the other day”, Kyle may want to say “Chris, when you get a chance, I think we should talk about the other day. I really value our friendship, and was wondering if you would want to get together to clear the air”. Now Kyle is letting Chris know that he doesn’t intend on letting the friendship get ruined because of one argument, but he also doesn’t want to have any hostility going into the reconciliation.


1. LISTEN TO WHAT THE PERSON HAS SAID – a tool one can use when reading an email is to say it out loud, not just skim through it. You are now adding the nonverbals that the simple words on the page are lacking.

2. BE SENSITIVE TO THE PERSON’S FEELINGS – Even if the printed message may not capture a person’s feelings as well as we’d like, we must still try and be in tune with them. Someone we are closely involved with may expect us to empathize with them when they are sending us a message. So rather than simply reading the words, we must try and imagine how those words make the sender feel by thinking about that person in general. In some cases, we may still be unclear about the meaning of a certain message, and this is when perception checking comes in handy. We must ask the person to try and clear up what they meant when a message is ambiguous or vague.

3. PARAPHRASE KEY IDEAS BEFORE YOU RESPOND – DUH! Perception check. If someone emailed you saying “I spoke with my manager the other day and he said he’s laying off my closest friend here”, you may respond “I get the sense that you are upset with your manager for his decision to lay off your friend, and also feel bad for your friend about the possibility of him losing his job – am I right? The person can then respond letting you know if you got the message right.

4. BE SUPPORTIVE WHEN A PERSON IS SHARING GOOD NEWS – Regardless of how a person has phrased their message, they expect their message to be fully understood. If someone shares good news with you, they expect you to respond in a positive manner.

5. PRAISE A PERSON’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS — kinda self explanatory.

6. TRY TO COMFORT A PERSON WHO’S HURTING – People who are close to us seek comfort. Because of the lack of sharing the same personal space with the person whom we are communicating, we may not feel inclined to get involved in the issue with which that person is struggling. But remember, a person would not say anything unless they were seeking comfort. So if your friend emails you and says “I’ve been having a bad week.

My dog is sick, I’m behind on homework, and I haven’t been myself lately”, you musn’t ignore that person, but provide some sort of support. Responding with “Man, that sucks” is NOT a good way to comfort someone. However, responding with, “Wow, I’m so sorry. I really hope your dog is okay, and if you need any help with getting organized, let me know what I can do. I’m here for you, and you can call me if you ever need to just vent” is a better way of showing the person that you care about them and their current situation.

Participation question: How often do you use your email account on a weekly basis? Write down answer and then share with class.

Other interactions that can take place using the internet is newsgroups and chat rooms. Everyday millions of people chat online with friends, colleagues and strangers. Teens use this form of interaction the most amount of time. Many teens engage in internet chat because they can be themselves more oppose to face to face interactions.

This is due to them not being afraid of how people will judge them. One unique characteristic of being online is that your real identity is usually kept secret. Most people adopt a cyber identity or persona. In this make believe world you can become anything or anyone you want. This can be somewhat problematic because so can everyone else.

Here are a few definitions on the topic:

Newsgroups- Is an electronic gathering place for people with similar interests. (Online example)

Chat- Is an online interactive exchange between two or more people. (Online example)

Lurking- Listening in on newsgroups or chat conversations. (Online example)

Flaming- A hostile or negative respond to what you’ve written. (Online example)

Participation question: Does anyone belong to a Newsgroup or likes to chat online? How often?

Thomas gives example about chat rooms.

Thanks to advances in technology, people are introduced to others they have never seen through chat rooms and internet dating services. These people mostly meet in a room where they talk about a certain subject. The people who meet online are likely to try and develop these Electronically Mediated relationships (or EM relationship) into a personal relationship. They will meet in a chat room, and if an interest in someone sparks the desire to “meet” in a private chat room, they may do so. From here, people are able

to communicate one-on-one and may then find out they have more than one thing in common. If the interest continues to grow, they may talk over the phone, and eventually meet in person. The result could be just a friendship, or an intimate relationship.

Statistics show that 23.7% of the people in a study of a certain newsgroup or chatroom communicated with their partner 3-4 times a week, and 55.4% communicated at least on a weekly basis. These EM relationships are attractive to some people with busy lifestyles who claim they have no time to “do the bar scene”. Other people who have a face-to-face relationships use EMC to sustain that relationship. E-mail was originally designed as a tool for conducting business, but is now used widely by friends, family, and lovers to maintain close connection that might be difficult to sustain when there is a lack of time, or there is great distance between the two parties.

Instant Messaging is one of the most widely used tools for sustaining or developing relationships. My brother lives with me, yet when we are at home, we get the most talking done while using Instant Messenger from separate rooms in the house. This is not to say our relationship wouldn’t last if we didn’t communicate via the internet, but it is a good way to catch up on each others’ lives while still working on what needs to get done like homework, and obviously communicating with others as well.

EMC is less fruitful than face to face communication, because text messages are primarily verbal. We have talked about the loss or lack of intimacy in EMC, and this is mostly because the way we say our words means more than just what is said. Ms. Mallard used the example of “I Love You” in class. Typing “I love you”, while getting the message across, does not necessarily reflect the emotion and intent behind those three words. We refer to our EM encounters as “talking to people”, but the words we write seldom carry out as much meaning as we think. Only with videoconferencing is the full range of nonverbal messages available.

After all, communication is at its most effective when there are verbal AND nonverbal messages being carried out EMC, conducted via keyboard entries, is slower paced than face-to-face conversations. We think faster than we can type (unless you’re Super-Secretary). Although this slower rate may provide a person more time for thought, this slower transmission reduces the spontaneity that is an important characteristic of face-to-face interaction.

EM communicators are perceived to be less supportive. As stated before, short messages may be interpreted many different ways, and are more often seen as very impersonal. In face-to-face communication, anywhere from 33% to 100% of the meaning depends on how the message was stated. Many people are attracted to EMC as a means of developing or maintaining relationships if they have had difficulty cultivating strong interpersonal relationships in person. Because EMC is planned, some people are able to show verbal skillfulness and humor in their writing, but lack those skills in face to face settings. Some individuals report that EM relationships are more satisfying than face-to-face relationships.

Now is this because we have advanced so far in the technological field that more and more people are online, thus providing us with a greater range of people to meet, or is this because people are losing the ability to “hold their own” in a face-to-face encounter. Americans used to go to clubs or bars to meet people, but are now staying home on Friday nights to talk to their online partner because they are more comfortable suppressing their need for group interaction in a less threatening atmosphere. Think about it, it is easier to talk to someone you are interested in online because the things you would have trouble saying in person simply roll right off your fingertips when using the internet. The awkwardness in a first conversation is virtually non-existent. You feel more connected to that person, and relationships tend to develop faster this way.

Role of Electronic Communication in Building Relationships

Today communication technologies are changing the way we building and maintaining relationships. Prior to 1990, people became more acquainted mostly with those with whom they had personal physical contact. At the same time, dating services advertised that they can get people in the same community acquainted with each other within a week. Today, people are able to make acquaintances with people around the world within seconds.

From Online to In-Person Relationships

In face to face relationships, trust is built over time. In EM relationships, making a trust evaluation is more difficult. Some of the media through which relationships are developed are very “opaque.”

Kelly gives example about Justine (trust factor).

The dark side of Electronically Mediated Communication

There are three main problems with EMC

EM communication to form relationship and acquire information has a number of risks and abuse. ( Abuse of Anonymity) Write on board—- One type of abuse in Internet- based relationships stems from the common practice of assuming a fictitious online persona. (Dishonesty) Write on board—–A second risk in cyber relationships lies in the ease with which one can be deceived. In cyberspace, people commonly lie about their sex and physical attributes, and create fictitious careers, homes, and so forth. Unfortunately, some people use cyberspace to prey on others. When we develop in-person relationships, we usually have independent ways of confirming that the people are what they are representing themselves to be. Because we don’t know our EM partners in person we are severely limited in our abilities to independently confirm what we are told.

Abuse of anonymity and dishonesty are of special concern for EM relationships formed by children. In 1998, seventeen million children ages two to eighteen were online. That number is expected to grow even higher. This is of some concern as well due to the growing numbers of Addiction. (Addiction) Write on board—– A third potential problem for children and adults alike is technological addictions, defined as non chemical (behavioral) addictions that involves human machine interaction. People who are addicted spend inordinate amounts of time online and begin to prefer their cyber relationships to their real ones.

So in conclusion technology has made some great strides in bringing the world closer, meaning we literally have the world at our fingertips. We can communicate with someone in Ireland at the press of a button. The effectiveness of Electronically Mediated Communication as it relates to inter-personal communication lies solely in how we choose to use it. EMC, if used incorrectly can drastically deteriorate the level of human intimacy and can take away the private aspect of communication with loved ones and has in turn made it into a public affair.

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