Saturday, June 15, 2013
Long distance relationships and online communication
Maintaining a good relationship is hard. Relationships have to grow through physical and emotional connections. Relationships that require one person to be physically separated from another due to different circumstances can be hard on any relationship. These circumstances could be because of work, school, or necessities in life. This distance may occur for a few days, weeks, months, or maybe even years. However, having distance with your partner could be a scary thought, right? Anyone facing this situation could have mixed feelings; however, we are going to focus on a more positive outlook in how communication through technology can actually maintain and strengthen a long-distance relationship if used properly.
Communication has changed dramatically over the years thanks to technology. These changes have affected the way individuals in romantic relationships communicate and interact. Think about it! During the Stone Age communication was only done by word of mouth, and they were limited to an audience and mates of only walking distance. If any male wanted to court or marry, he could only look for a mate within his tribe. Once married the husband could not communicate with his wife and family when he was out looking for a score. Many years’ later, writing letters became an addition to communication. Even though it did aid those who lived long-distance from each other stay in touch, it took weeks to receive the message depending on the distance it had to travel. Moreover, when the telephone was invented, it opened up a whole new avenue of faster communication with anyone that had connection to a telephone. This became more efficient than any other method because of how quickly anyone could reach someone and share information by holding a conversation. In addition, this was the most personal way of communicating (Tong & Walther 2010, Walther 2011) from a distance due to being able to hear the voice and recognize verbal cues. Fast-forward to today, this generation has the ability to instantly communicate with anyone in any part of the world through more than one platform of technology. Most high- school and college students have smart phones that keeps them interacting to a digital world filed of friends, followers, and contacts. Because of the cyber influence in communication, it has become a game changer in how couples in romantic relationships interact and communicate with each other as well.
Couples in today’s society have to acknowledge the influence that Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) has on their personal relationships (ICA 2012; Tong & Walther 2010).
For example, the “social penetration theory” states how relationships only develop through stages depending on the exchange of personal information and the depth of that information (Allensworth 1996). Social networking sites (SNS) not only violates the social Penetration Theory because of the massive personal information disclosed through the profile, but it also verifies the seriousness off a romantic relationship (ICA 2012). SNSs like Facebook have the potential to control, confirm, maintain, and deteriorate the relationship status between you and your partner. Moreover, the common role that all SNSs and CMC share is their ability to interact through that channel and share information. The CMC will aid in maintaining a long-distance relationship (Tong & Walther 2010). The key is becoming knowledgeable as a couple in how to use it properly. Here are five different tips that will help both as a couple.
Tip number one: As a couple always be considerate of each other when choosing the CMC. According to the Social Presence Theory, people need feedback when communicating in order for the interaction to be a satisfying experience (Walther, 2011). The way you communicate and how you communicate are crucial to your love one. Get to know their schedule; this way you can expect less/more conversational cues or what CMC to use. This eliminates many misunderstanding and arguments on subjects like, “why didn’t you answer the phone when I called you an hour ago?”
Tip number two: Schedule phone or online dates with each other regularly. Since both parties will have their own life going on it can be hard to find time to just call and hold a conversation; therefore, it is important that you both make time for each other even though you’re apart. Moreover, using SNSs like Skype, Oovoo, Facetime, or Tango would be a great to use for the online dates. Assistant Professor of Communication Studies in the University of Richmond, Erin M. Sahlstein(2005), states that couples who established daily communicating routines were much more successful than those who chose the random method. In other words, set phone or online dates with each other frequently.
Tip number three: Be creative and thoughtful utilizing CMCs. For example, send each other random videos or pictures to let them know you’re thinking of them. If you don’t have smart phone create the video on Skype or Oovoo and send it to his or her email. Just be creative. Media richness theory indicates that the more information given when communicating through media (fewer limitations), then the communication become more satisfying in interpersonal relational building (Walther, 2011). Video clips would be considered media rich because he or she has access to more interaction, and he or she is able to experience non-verbal gestures, facial expressions, and voice tone all at once.
Tip number Four: Be conscious of your activity on SMS. Many couples find SMS as stressful, and a threat to their relationships because of the problems that can appear. Individuals depend on SMS for “online stalking” and “information seeking (ICA 2012). In other words, be aware that your page is being watched. Personal statuses, picture uploads, and activity on wall should not be flirtatious or offensive to your partner. Even though this applies to couples that are not geographically separated, partners in long-distance are more sensitive due to CMC is the only channel to building and maintaining trust (ICA 2012).
Tip number Five: Tackle any problems as they appear. Addressing and discussing issues right away is important while in separation (Matsumoto 2005). When away from your partner, it is crucial that partners are open and willing to resolve any concerns one may have. It could be very easy to weaken a relationship if partners ignore or negatively communicate with each other. Plus, this will avoid having to spend large amounts of time addressing issues in “meeting up sessions.” Meeting sessions should be used to excited and enjoy each other as a couple.
Couples in committed relationships have or will experience geographically separations at some point of their relationship. This is very common in both young and older couples because of the today’s traveling availability. Visiting a family, career opportunities, missions, internships, or educational advancements are all popular examples of why most partners might find themselves in distance from each other. Many could argue that a long-distance relationship can weaken a couple’s relationship because of the lack of intimacy they gain when physically together. According to the article by Matsumoto (2005), Romancing the Phone, research showed that when couples are apart the individual has the ability to focus more on their individual goals and reflect objectively on their relationship. Nevertheless, if couples take advantage of the different types of channels of communication through technology, then the relationship could benefit from the separation rather than weakening. As a couple you and your partner could gain a different type of intimacy while advancing in other areas of your life.
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