Text messaging, also referred to as SMS messaging, is a popular form of mediated, interpersonal communication that involves sending short messages to and from individual’s cell phones through a or cellular connection to converse with individuals at anyplace and anytime all over the world.
Created in 1992 by Neil Papworth, an engineer for Vodaphone, a software company in England, the first text message was sent by Papworth to an executive of the company attending a Christmas party in a separate building; the message of the first ever text message simply read, “Merry Christmas”, it wouldn’t be until the next year that texting would be available to the general public (Peritz, 2012). So at mere 23 years old, Texting is one of the youngest mediums of communication, yet despite its adolescence, it is of the most popular forms of communication, especially among young adults aged 18 -24, who send an average of 109. texts a day, according to Pew Internet and American Life Project (2011). Texting has also become an important part of creating and sustaining relationships, a study by Louise Horstmanshof and Mary R. Power (2005) depict adolescents’ dependence on text messaging for relationship maintenance and connection with their friends, reaching out for friendship, comfort, and boredom relief, and Gonzales (2014) exhibits that text based communication has a greater effect on self-esteem than face to face or voice mail communication.
Because text messaging has become such an integrated form of communication in day to day life, it’s important to analyze and accurately inform how texting affects relationships and communication, Literature Review The effects of positive messaging in a romantic relationship In Shanhong Luo and Shelly Tuney’s study (2015), the two researchers wanted to analyze how constant, positive communication affected romantic relationships.
The researchers analyzed whether the use of daily positive messaging could be used to improve romantic relationships between college students, and hypothesized that a couple’s satisfaction with their relationship with their partner would increase when one of the partners sent a daily positive text message to the other. Furthermore, the pair hypothesized that the more the positive text related to their specific relationship, the more satisfied, or happy, the couples would become.
To do this, they completed two studies: in the first study, they established three groups and assigned each group different instructions on how to interact with their significant other over a period of two weeks. To the first group they assigned scripted, relationally specific messages to use when initiating a SMS conversation with their significant other, to the second group they assigned nonspecific, generally positive messages to use when initiating a text with their significant other, and the third group was used a control with no instructions on texting their partner.
All participants were required to log their corresponding text messages with their significant others, and answer in a questionnaire concerning their demographic, personality, relationship status, as well as satisfaction with their relationship, using a Likert scale at the end of the first and second weeks. The researchers also instructed the participants not inform their partners of their participation in the study.
Additionally, the participant’s partners were invited by an online survey at the end of the second week to take the same relationship satisfaction test as the participants, which was used to help complete the study. Contrary to the researcher’s expectations, the couples from the first group of participants who were instructed to use the daily scripted positive messages showed a significant decrease in satisfaction with their relationship, not improvement.
The positivity and intentionality displayed by the participants were misunderstood and taken as out of character, even harming a relationship in one situation because a participants’ partner felt they were being cheated on due to the formality of the scripted texts; and in many cases, due to the researcher’s instructions, many of the participants were forced to be dishonest with their significant others, causing undue stress that may have canceled out any increase in positivity.
To rectify this possible error, the researchers ran the study a second time; this time ensuring that the participants would be able to craft their own personal texts, and an additional fourth group was created, which was only given instructions to initiate a text message, without mention of its subject matter. Additionally the participants were given a more in depth questionnaire regarding the satisfaction with their relationship and were instructed to share both the number of texts each day as well as their initiating text, or their response.
The researchers maintained their hypothesis that the relationally specific positive messages would be the most satisfied, followed by the generally positive group, the initiating text group, and finally the control. With the new parameters, they removed the negative effects that haunted the first study. However, the researchers hypotheses was only partially correct, as they discovered that while the participants felt an increased satisfaction with their relationship their partner did not; the positivity was crippled by the medium of SMS messaging.
Equity, relational maintenance, and linguistic features of text messaging Another study, performed by Nicholas Brody and Jorge Pena explored how text messaging is used to maintain close friendships and romantic relationships. To do this, the defined what the term ‘maintenance meant, and broke it down into five actions that assisted with the total upkeep of the relationship in question. They assert that relationship maintenance is divided into equal parts of positivity, openness, assurances, social networks, and shared tasks.
The researches hypothesized that 1) those in equitable, or fair, relationships would spend more time maintaining their relationship that those in unequitable, or unfair, relationships. 2) Increased maintenance in a relationship would improve satisfaction, and 3) positive affect words like nice, happy, glad, etc, would affect the relationship positively while negative affect words like sad, angry, wrong, stupid, etc, would have negative effects on the relationship.
The procedure entailed having the participants complete an online survey detailing their relationship and what forms of maintenance they most often employ, perceived relational equity, and relationship satisfaction. Finally, the participants were instructed to share the last ten text messages they had taken apart in, with the personal information like names and locations removed.
The text messages were than analyzed by the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Program (LIWC), and studies for the cognitive, emotional, and structural elements of the message. The researchers discovered that on average, more maintenance strategies were used for friendship relationships as opposed to romantic relationships, and that, affirmatively in line with their hypothesis that an increase in maintenance coincided with an increase in relationship satisfaction, except, interestingly, for the trait of openness in romantic couples.
Additionally, the researchers discovered that, for romantic relationships, negative affect words had significant negative impact on a couple’s relationship satisfaction, while positive impact words were shown to have little positive impact; depicting that, at least for couples in a romantic relationship, negative words had significantly more impact than positive ones.