You are walking towards the nearest Starbucks and find

You are walking towards the nearest Starbucks and find yourself looking at a whole world around you on their phones and laptops. We have come to a time in human history where communication is being held in the majority online instead of face to face. An issue comes with this though, how intimate can interactions get if both the sender and receiver are not in person. Is it possible for people miles even states away to have such a high level of interaction? Social Interaction Processing Theory explains how it is possible for online relationships to be as intimate as face-to-face relationships and in some instances be seen as more significant than face-to-face relationships.

Social Information Processing Theory (SIP) was developed in 1992 by Joseph Walther. Walther labeled his theory Social Information Processing because he believed relationships grow only to the extent that parties first gain information about each other and use that information to form interpersonal impressions of who they are.

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SIP was created to fix the flaws seen in other theories that believed the lack of nonverbal cues being harmful to online relationship development (West & Turner, 2017).

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They are are called cues filtered-out theories and are the Social Presence Theory and Media Richness Theory (West & Turner, 2017). Both theories pretty much failed to understand how deep online relationships can get through time. Walther explains that the theory is about how people can get to know one another and develop relationships when they communicate over computer-mediated communication also known as CMCs (West & Turner, 2017). This computer mediated communication can be emails, discussion boards and even tweets. They are text-based messages that kick nonverbal cues out the window. These nonverbal cues that people have used before the age of the internet become less necessary as people can be on their devices and type their thoughts and send them to others.

We saw through Uncertainty Reduction Theory how nonverbal cues can help in getting to know someone else. The way a person acts and behaves during an interaction in person greatly help in making the conversation comfortable. Social Information Processing Theory points out that technology can be used to its advantage without the fundamental nonverbal cues we have come see and need. But we must understand that the theory was created in 1992 where social media was not really a thing yet. There was not a Facebook, Instagram, Gmail we could all use. Many today can agree that there is not a need for face to face interactions or relationships as it could be done on our phones or laptops. But back in 1992 Waller tried to make sense of something that had just started to change how people communicated around the world.

There are three assumptions related to SIP. One, computer-mediated communication provides unique opportunities to connect with people (West & Turner, 2017). Two, online communicators are motivated to form impressions of themselves to others and three, online interpersonal relationships require extended time and more accumulated messages to develop equivalent levels of intimacy seen in face to face interpersonal relationships (West & Turner, 2017). Computer-mediated communication can be both asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous communication is the process that occurs when both sender and receiver are online at different times, owing to time constraint and synchronous communication being the process when bot sender and receiver are online simultaneously (West & Turner, 2017). Chronemic cues are the extent in which nonverbal communication is done. It is how the sender and receiver managed time in their own hands. For example, if you were confused in a response you read you would most likely take your time in answering or if you are overtly excited you would answer back in a heartbeat. CMC users allow parties to create online identities that the other party would see them to be, may it be honest or not.

As a person that has been in a far distance relationship, I have been able to understand the theory and agree many of the beliefs Walther has presented. Online relationships can have synchronous and asynchronous communication. You can be in different time zones where time becomes a restraint. I was in New York, but my girlfriend was in California. I was 3 hours ahead of her so there were times of the day where I was on my phone, but she could have been asleep, so I would have to wait a few hours for any response. We couldn't just see each other so you definitely felt that limit to online relationships. There were moments of the day and week where we would get these sweet spots and be able to text each other and have a response in seconds. It would feel like she was there right in front of me.

High levels of intimacy were not an issue in my relationship. Yes, it was difficult at first, but it became easier over time. Walther stated the length of time as being a key factor for determining how intimate online relationships can get. There was a larger emphasis on verbal cues in our online relationship to create impressions. I had to rely on her grammar and her use of emoticons as well as what we talked about. And to be honest all three were spot on for me so I was able to create this amazing person in my head without ever meeting her face to face. Over time we hit it off and eventually we couldn't get enough of each other. More time was needed to create a relationship as all our communication went through our fingertips. We would text each other all day long but if it were a face to face relationship seeing each other periodically through out the day could have done the job.

Daria S. Heinemann's "Using You've Got Mail to Teach Social Information Processing Theory and Hyperpersonal Perspective in Online Interactions" uses Social Processing Theory to illustrate the implications of social information processing and hyperpersonal perspective in CMC relationships (Heinemann, 2011). As you can tell from the title of the journal, the movie including Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as leads analyzes the use of SIP to understand and demonstrate what went on in the film. In this romantic comedy, both leads fall in love using an anonymous online chat room but the plot twist being how they have already met face to face as they are neighbors and feel a hatred for one another. Through the use of the CMC both characters were able to bring out the sides of their personality that they would not typically disclose in real life, especially in the case of Tom Hanks's character who became more comfortable sharing his personal life (Heinemann, 2011).

The journal goes over specific scenes within the film that correlate with SIP such as, "According to SIPT Kathleen is able to construct an image of Joe by generalizing his positive qualities and magnifying them. She reflects that he is always kind in her communication with her, so he must be always kind, and never would hurt a woman by not showing up at a date without a reason." (Heinemann, pg. 186). It is how Tom Hanks responds that further demonstrates the theory. Using chronemic cues, his character took his time to respond to the other person as he did not first plan to answer which would have caused the receiver the feeling of anger (Heinemann, 2011). Now that he finally knew the identity of who the person, he was talking to is, the online identity he created for himself was in danger. The time they spent creating a relationship was near its end unless he fixed it.

A large part of intimacy comes from the value of trust within an online and face-to-face relationship. Mi Rosie Jahng and Jeremy Littau's "Interacting Is Believing: Interactivity, Social Cue, and Perceptions of Journalistic Credibility on Twitter" examined the effect of social cues and interactivity in social media on journalists' credibility based on aspects of SIP (Jahng & Littau, 2016). Based on Social Information Processing Theory, active interactions with followers via Twitter and providing information about a person's personal profile can resemble the types of attitude conveyed through physical cues available in face-to-face communication (Jahng & Littau, 2016). The study showed that if journalists revealed more personal information on Twitter, the higher chance of trust they would receive from their followers. It demonstrated that internet relationships can become more intimate and trustworthy the more information and communication you have with the party you are interacting with. The information you put out in social media or anywhere, has an effect on others as they come to picture you a certain way based off what you put out there.

Social Interaction Processing Theory explains how it is possible for online relationships to be as intimate as face-to-face relationships and in some instances be seen as more significant than face-to-face relationships. We are in a new age where forming online relationships is normal as anyone can participate on platforms like Twitter or meet someone in anonymous chatrooms. You can connect with people you have never met before and interact. I myself was able to find a girlfriend through Computer-mediated communication. The theory being almost 30 years old can be demonstrated now more than ever and is a theory many should have in mind.

Updated: May 20, 2021
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You are walking towards the nearest Starbucks and find. (2019, Dec 14). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/you-are-walking-towards-the-nearest-starbucks-and-find-example-essay

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