Keeping in Touch by Technology: Maintaining Friendships after a Residential Move
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2008, 00:00 by Irina Shklovski, Robert Kraut, Jonathon Cummings
Many observers have praised new communication technologies for providing convenient and affordable tools for maintaining relationships at a distance. Yet the precise role of mediated communication in relationship maintenance has been difficult to isolate. In this paper, we treat residential moves as natural experiments that threaten existing social relationships and often force people to rely on mediated communication to maintain their old relationships. Results from a 3-wave survey of 900 residential movers describing 1892 relationships shows that email and the telephone play different roles in social relationships. Email helps maintain social relationships, in the sense that relationships decline when email drops after the move. However increases in email are not associated with increases in the depth of the relationship or exchanges of support. In contrast, phone calls help movers grow relationships and exchange social support.