Sunday, July 21, 2019 | ePaper

Texting can enhance romance in relationship

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Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D :
"As soon as their eyes locked from across the crowded room, it was love at first sight." How old fashioned, right? Who meets in person anymore?
The answer is: everyone . . . eventually.  Although online dating has exploded onto the social scene, relationships are developed online with the goal of moving offline. But in order to explore real life chemistry, couples still have to get to the table, so to speak. That requires the formation of a digital connection with enough attraction, trust, and interest to spark the transition into the real world. Couples make this move every day. Here is how it happens-and how it is sustained.
One of the most important factors on a first date, which determines whether or not there will be a second, is chemistry. For many couples, you either have it or you don´t. Online, however, there is a different set of rules.
In the virtual realm, prospective partners have the luxury of time on their side, which allows them to cultivate the perfect message: clever, charming, and calculated to appeal specifically to the receiver. Obviously, authenticity is important as well. But for the socially awkward who are better in writing than in person, online contact is the perfect method of communication-at least at the beginning.
Even beyond relationship formation, however, research reveals that once a partnership is formed, electronic communication such as emailing and texting can enhance the romance.
Emails and text messages can be cold, devoid of social cues, and subject to misinterpretation. But they don´t have to be. In fact, research reveals they can be quite the opposite.
In a study entitled "Playfulness in mobile instant messaging" (2017), Sara H. Hsieh and Timmy H. Tsengin found that using emoticons in text messages increases perceived playfulness through information richness, which enhances social connectedness and identity expressiveness between users.[i] The researchers adopted a definition of playfulness that encompasses curiosity, sense of humor, creativity, and spontaneity.
Research by Taylor M. Wells and Alan R. Dennis (2016) entitled "To Email or Not to Email" discovered that senders experienced more arousal when sending romantic emails than when leaving romantic voicemails, while the opposite was true for functional "utilitarian" communication[ii]  As might be expected, romantic emails were more positive content wise than romantic voicemails, where again, the opposite was true in the utilitarian category.
Specifically, they found that romantic emails contained the most positive emotional content, with utilitarian voice mail messages coming in second place.  The least amount of positive emotional content was found in romantic voicemails.
So if texting and emailing have relational benefits, what about the public perception of being tied to your device? Research indicates the tide might be turning here as well-at least in terms of attraction.
We have all heard the common complaint, that use of mobile devices in public can be rude. Apparently, however, not all device distraction is created equal.  
Vanden Abeele et al. (2016) studied mobile messaging behavior, and found that people who use their cell phones during conversation are viewed as significantly less attentive and polite.[iii]  Reactive messaging behavior, however, appears to be less of an affront.  Abeele et al. found that responding to an electronic message had less of a negative impact on impression formation than initiating a message.
Interestingly, Abeele et al. also found in a second experiment that although mobile messaging negatively impacted conversation quality, social attraction was not affected. This finding was true regardless of whether or not participants knew the cell phone user.
The authors note that this finding suggests that although use of a device may negatively impact conversation quality, it does not directly impact whether individuals like each other. They opine that one explanation for this finding could have been the fact that in their study, smart phone users were instructed to explain that they had to answer a message before taking the phone call, which might have functioned as a subtle apology that softened the impact of their behavior on their partner´s conversational expectations.
Texting is great and we all do it.  But consider balancing time spent online with quality time offline. The healthiest relationships find the sweet spot, using electronic communications as a supplement, not complete sustenance.  
(Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D., is a career trial attorney, author of Red Flags, and co-author of Reading People).

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