Interlocutors furthermore may experience the online disinhibition effect (Suler, 2004), whereby the nature of text-based communication itself contributes to feelings of intimacy and connectedness.
The above evidence from the media studies literature might suggest that when young adults engage in digital communication, they can, with time, achieve the same level of connectedness as in-person communication.
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).
Considerable research on computer-mediated communication has examined online communication between strangers, but little is known about the emotional experience of connectedness between friends in digital environments.
However, adolescents and emerging adults use digital communication primarily to communicate with existing friends rather than to make new connections.
By the late 1970’s, experimental work examining information exchange through teleconferencing and closed-circuit television was advanced enough to warrant a review in Psychological Bulletin (Williams, 1977).
In the years since, CMC researchers have compared audiovisual, auditory, and text-based communication to in-person communication on a wide variety of variables, including efficiency of communication, cognitive task performance, intimacy of disclosure, and trust (Antheunis, Schouten, Valkenburg, & Peter, 2012; Bargh, Mc Kenna, & Fitzsimons, 2002; Burgoon et al., 2002; Ray & Floyd, 2006; Tidwell & Walther, 2002; Walther, Loh, & Granka, 2005).
To examine bonding in close friendships, we turn to the work of Gonzaga and colleagues.
In a series of studies, these researchers discovered that a cluster of four nonverbal cues—the Duchenne smile, affirmative head nods, leaning towards the conversation partner, and positive hand gesturing—relate reliably to feelings of affection towards a friend and commitment to close relationships (Gonzaga et al., 2001, 2006).One way to address potential differences in digital and in-person communication is to compare them directly.In developmental psychology, the existing literature on social media use, while increasingly sophisticated, has nonetheless relied primarily on survey-based approaches.Compared with other participants, those who spoke on the phone more frequently with their participating friend reported greater bonding during audio chat.Use of textual affiliation cues like emoticons, typed laughter, and excessive letter capitalization during IM related to increased bonding experience during IM.Bonding was defined as the momentary emotional experience of feeling connected to and affection for a friend.