Emotional support during times of stress: Can text messaging compete with in-person interactions?

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Abstract

There has been a recent and dramatic surge in the popularity of text messaging as a means of connecting with our social networks. The current research represents the first randomized controlled studies to directly compare both the social and emotional impact of social support provided in-person versus through text messaging. In two lab-based experiments, emerging adults completed a stressful task and were randomly assigned to receive emotional support either in-person, via text messaging, or no support at all. Support was provided by a close friend in experiment 1 (n = 64), and by a similar-aged confederate in experiment 2 (n = 188). In both experiments, in-person support was associated with significantly higher positive affect compared to text messaging. In-person support also led to greater satisfaction with support, but only in experiment 2. Overall, this research suggests that there may be emotional costs to a reliance on digital forms of social communication during times of stress.

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Holtzman, S., DeClerck, D., Turcotte, K., Lisi, D., & Woodworth, M. (2017). Emotional support during times of stress: Can text messaging compete with in-person interactions? Computers in Human Behavior, 71, 130–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.01.043

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