Studying Text Messaging and Romantic Relationships

1052 words | 4 page(s)

If I were a communications professor at a major American university, I would attempt to study the dynamics of relationships and text messaging. Since text messaging is a common mode of communication, many people use it to talk to one another. I would like to examine the impact text messaging has on romantic relationships. In order to do so, I would narrow my research question to be, “Does text messaging strengthen or weaken romantic relationships and partner communication?” This combines the communications branches of interpersonal communication and the role of media in communications.

I find the commonplace nature of text messaging to be particularly interesting, because it has altered the way that people talk to one another. People who are shy about talking on the telephone can communicate by writing messages instead. In fact, people can talk to others in the same room as them without speaking aloud. I have seen pairs use text messaging in this way, and it is fascinating. When I observed this behavior, I found myself wondering if the two people grew closer together because of their shared, private messages. On the other hand, the question of “sexting” can be a problem too, because text messaging is not as private as many people would like to believe. For these reasons, I would like to work with couples who communicate by text message to see if they spend more or less time talking and what they believe the quality of those conversations is. Do they feel that they are closer to each other because they can be in constant contact? Do relationships grow boring because the lovers are always talking to one another? Do people talk about serious matters through text messaging? Do text messages replace face-to-face communication in relationships, or are they in addition to verbal contact?

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By studying the influence text communication has on romantic relationships, I would hope to shed light on a relatively new method of communicating. Additionally, my research could help people to view text messaging in a new way. Without examining the common use of text messaging, the dynamics it creates would probably go largely unnoticed. There are so many people who send these messages on a daily basis, sometimes sending hundreds of messages in one day. However, most of the people who send these messages do so without thinking about what they are saying. As a society, we need to remain conscious of the ways in which our communication is changing, and text messages has a much larger influence than it did even five years ago.

The research methods I would need to employ to study the dynamic text messaging plays in romantic relationships would be decidedly qualitative rather than quantitative. While some of my methods could draw from numbers-based rating, the focus would be on behavioral patterns. In addition, I would be looking at the reasons behind a feeling of closeness or separation as a result of text-based communication in order to determine if there is any correlation between the perceived strength of a relationship and its communication level. In order to begin examining the questions I have about this method of communication, I would need to gather information in several different ways. One way is to ask couples to complete a brief survey in which they would answer general questions about text messaging. Some of the questions would ask them to rate, on a predetermined scale, the acceptability of different conversation topics for text messaging. In addition, my survey would ask people to rate the closeness they feel with their partners while text messaging and communicating verbally. I would also ask them to rate how often they communicate and what method they use most often.

I would also need several couples to study in greater depth. In order to get the most accurate data possible, those couples would represent different types of romantic relationships, including heterosexual, homosexual, and long-distance, with varying relationship lengths represented as well. For an initial study, I would draw from a population between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, because that is an age group that relies much more heavily on text messaging than some of their elders. Also, working with couples in that group would give me greater access to relationships that have different degrees of seriousness.

With the sample group of couples, I would interview them with questions more in-depth than those from the survey. I would also ask them to provide me with a sample of at least one day’s worth of text messages. Finally, I would attempt to record, or at the very least examine, verbal communication between the partners. I would discuss communication and relationship closeness with the partners in couple and individual sessions over the course of a period of time – at least one month.

The reasons for utilizing qualitative research in a study like this should be obvious. Human behavior and perceptions rarely follows mathematical formulas, and my research would be somewhat anthropological in nature. I would be focusing more on the “why” of relationships rather than the “what” or “when.” By surveying a larger group of couples and then examining a more manageable number, I would be able to determine if patterns emerge. Additionally, I would be able to see how couples feel about their communication and compare those feelings to what they are saying in their text messages. I would also be able to compare their text communication to their verbal communication to see if the couples’ perceptions about how well they communicate seem to be in line with what they are saying in their messages.

Perhaps the most interesting part of pursuing this area of study would be that it would ask the couples to spend some time thinking about how they talk to one another and what kinds of things they will or will not say in writing as opposed to verbally. Awareness of communication methods is very important, because society can be swept away by a new mode of communicating otherwise. Given the opportunity, a study like this could pave the way for examinations of age and text messaging as well as gender differences in the way text messaging is used. With such a great number of these messages being sent every day, we would be remiss in not examining them more closely.

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