“Wherever You Go, Wherever You Are, I Am with You… Connected with My Mobile”. the Usage of Mobile Text Messages for the Maintenance of Family and Romantic Relations.

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Bernadette KNEIDINGER-MÜLLER, University of Bamberg, Germany
Mobile phones play an important role in the everyday communication especially in close relationships. They allow to stay in contact with the loved ones independently from the actually position of the interaction partners. As the high popularity of short message services (SMS) showed in the 1990th and early 2000th, mobile phones are not only used as an alternative for landline telephones but lead to a new significance of written messages (Grinter/Eldridge2001; Ito/Okabe 2005). Today, SMS are complemented or even substituted by messages that are sent via Internet-based mobile messengers as “WhatsApp”. This presentation gives answers to the question how written messages via smartphones are used in the everyday communication of family members and romantic couples. Data from a two-step qualitative study with 20 young adults (20-30 years) will be presented. In the first step, all participants recorded their mobile communication behavior for three days using a standardized diary (n≈3400 messages). In the second step, all participants are asked in qualitative interviews about their usage habits and experiences of mobile communication. The study reveals that written communication via smartphones is not only used for the coordination and organization of everyday tasks but for a very special form of relationship maintenance: by the exchange of a large number of mobile messages in the course of the day, family members and romantic partners stay in continuous contact with each other even if they are physically separated (“connected presence” Licoppe 2004). The diary data reveals significant differences in terms of contents and motivations of the messages that are exchanged between family members or romantic partners and those messages that are sent to friends or acquaintances. Whereas mobile communication with friends happen quite frequently in co-presence of other interaction partners, mobile messages with family or romantic partners are mainly exchanged when the user is alone.