College Love: Uncertainty & Satisfaction in Long Distance Dating Relationships

By Guest Author Kasie Tanabe

Going on into my third year in a long distance dating relationship, I can attest to the important role of active of maintenance in keeping a fulfilling relationship. However, I was unaware of just how closely linked satisfaction is to communication strategies and their feelings on the relationship’s future.

Surveying 186 college students in long distance dating relationships (LDDRs), Maguire looked the following subjects:
• Certainty/uncertainty of reuniting in the same city – how this affected the overall relationship satisfaction
• Relationship-enhancing/distancing communicative coping strategies – which of the two are more helpful for people in LDDRs with an uncertain and certain future
• Convergent/divergent situations – how satisfaction differs for those in convergent (high probability of a favored outcome) and divergent (low probability of a favored outcome) situations, and what communicative coping strategies work best

Maguire’s results generally strengthened existing theories regarding certainty and its positive effects on maintenance and communicative coping strategies. However, people who were comfortable with their future prospects (whether it be certain or uncertain) showed greater overall relationship satisfaction. In addition, maintenance and relationship-enhancing coping strategies were more clearly associated with relationships of reduced uncertainty.

Therefore, it should not be assumed that uncertainty will always prove problematic for LDDRs. Uncertainty management theory (UMT) offers one perspective on this issue; it recognizes that not all uncertainty is negative. In some situations, certainty may be problematic, especially if the sure future involves an undesirable outcome. It is not true that if a couple is uncertain or moderately uncertain of reuniting, then they necessarily are unsatisfied and have more distress.

Miss You (from doug88888)Maintenance strategies say a lot about a relationship as well. A commitment to a future together brings about an increased amount of openness, cooperativeness, joint-problem solving, and assurances, as more importance is placed on maintaining the relationship in hopes of making it last. But no matter the case, as the study and I both suggest, keep withdrawal and verbal attacks to a minimum. No matter the certainty or satisfaction level, all participants felt these to be harmful and unhelpful coping strategies.

Finally, another important aspect of LDDRs is idealization. This occurs often, as idealized images may arise through restricted communication. One partner is allowed to see only what the other wants them to see; it is easier in LDDRs to leave out unfavorable information. This ultimately heightens satisfaction levels.

Maguire, K. (2007). “Will it ever end?”: A (re)examination of uncertainty in college student long-distance dating relationships. Communication Quarterly, 415-432.

Final Thoughts from SXSW

SXSW was exhausting, fast, and fun. Most academics really miss the bleeding edge of technology, and with good reason (they are trapped in often antiquated systems that can slow down publication and dissemination of articles, though I have experienced some improvement in this vein over the years). Here are a few of my final thoughts:

  • The parties were everything I heard they would be. Rather than hopping, I tended to stay in one place each night. To my mind, this led to less eternal queuing (I heard two hours at one point for the PBS party), and I think one of the great lessons in life is to be happy right where one is. And with the Walkmen playing at the DiggNation party on Saturday night, I felt no need to leave (though I heard amazing things about the frog design party, which featured vodka and corn dogs). I had a cool exchange with someone about how his company uses qualitative research, and how that compares with some of the expectations in quantitative research; tremendous learning occurred amidst the product demonstrations and frivolity.
  • After spending several hours Sunday afternoon at the Social Media Club House (see picture of the view from the backyard), the PBS event ended a nice day. It had the ingredients of a perfect party–great Tex-Mex, margaritas, excellent music from Band of Skulls and Nicole Atkins, a historical location (the ACL Studios), and it was in the college of my alma mater (Hook ‘Em!). Other than not having my wife alongside me, it was bliss.

  • Panel highlights included the “Is there too much math in marketing” debate Tuesday morning. The pro- and con- advocates kept the tone light, but made their points. Ultimately, I felt they were saying the same thing—know the questions before you look at the data. For the pro-math camp, this resulted in tighter and more leveled/meaningful metrics. For the creative- camp, this resulted in using math (really to test the effectiveness of ideas born out of radical and bold notions. Of course, I think they meant statistics when they mentioned math, but maybe that distinction is meaningless to non-academic folks. A panel on “Rebranding the Republican Party” provided an interesting history on the evolution of a website and the brand evolving around it. A fellow tweeter summarized the most quixotic feature about the panel: “If I hear the phrase ‘Leadership of the Chairman’ again, I’m going to start looking for signs in Mandarin.”
  • I found it easy to meet people, which is good since I knew few at SXSW beforehand. Certainly there were people who seemed to run in cliques (maybe in that large of a crowd high-school tendencies can’t help but emerge), but I think I did a good job staying outside of my comfort zone.  I met an diverse array of self-made folks, sharp folks snatched up by top agencies and corporations, and folks who effortlessly evolved through different businesses in perhaps the fastest-moving field in human-kind. In one instance, I wound up on a bus next to the CEO of HootSuite, and got some ideas on how I could use it for my social media class. While waiting for a Microsoft party, one of the first 2000 of Google’s employees showed me how to update the features on my Android phone. And Conan O’Brien showed up on stage at Stubb’s Barbeque to announce a new television deal. This last thing may have only existed as a really great Twitter prank; I suppose you had to be there…

Why the Twitter keynote at SXSW failed

For my second dispatch from SXSW (filed from a plane somewhere over Amarillo), I wanted to offer my thoughts on the keynote interview with Twitter’s Evan Williams, which has already achieved notoriety.

So why did it fail?

First, it failed expectations: the keynote room must hold 4,000 people. It filled up, and the overflow room that must have held another 1500 was as well. That leads to a certain feeling of hype tough to meet. It didn’t. And the big announcement at the beginning, which was somewhat newsworthy, was presented in an almost laconic fashion.

Second, it failed as a format. For a crowd that large, you need energy and movement. To relax on a black chair and sit cross-legged swigging from a water bottle is never a good idea talking to a group that large. I heard from another conference attendee that SXSW always utilizes this format for one of the keynotes. I would recommend not doing so, and for a free badge for next year, I would happily advise the SXSW organizers of that opinion. Save that format for a smaller panel. This same attendee watched the interview in the overflow room, and he felt it wasn’t so bad (perhaps it worked better as TV?)  He also had seen Evan speak before, and described him as effective.

Of course, the interviewer (Harvard Business Review’s Umair Haque) himself failed. As an interviewer, your job is to make the subject interesting. The best (Charlie Rose, Craig Ferguson) bring out what makes that person unique, and allow them the space to shine and interject when needed. Haque discussed himself too much, forgot he wasn’t the star, had too monotone of a delivery style, and lobbed softball questions. My sense is that he is intelligent, but this did not come through (and he recognized his weakness as an interviewer on his blog). I feel bad for him as he has taken an Internet beating (including my ever-important one, though I hope I have offered constructive comments). Ironically, the previous session I attended addressed the issue of proper interviewing. As Nancy Baym (that session’s moderator) told me via Twitter later, if she had given her talk after the session, she would have simply said “don’t do that. ok, bye.”

And finally, it failed to be interesting (see softball questions noted above). I was among the early leavers, as I had trouble twittering the speech due to a bad connection (I did commiserate with my friend Jason via text). I wanted also to see what the overflow room looked like. Allegedly by the interview’s end the hall looked maybe half-filled, though with the bright lights and darkened audience, the presenters had no idea of what had happened until afterward.

What succeeded? The massive power of back channel communication, which emanated, of course, from Twitter. There were some massively funny tweets. My two favorites? 1) @ev spoke of windows and doors. Fortunately for those attending, there were none of the former and plenty of the latter (paraphrased), and 2) “This @ev Keynote provides much needed mental rest for #sxsw attendees. Almost a Buddhist retreat.” It was the equivalent of the creator of FourSquare getting stalked at the grocery store where he holds the honorary title of “mayor.”

In retrospect, I wish I had written funnier tweets, but as someone who often speaks in public over nine hours a week, I felt wary of being a snarky audience member. I still keep danah boyd’s account of this happening to her in mind, and it scares me. The geek culture makes snap decisions (see The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy), perhaps as a result of the amount and speed of the information they put themselves they absorb. The potential power of Twitter and whatever lies next lurks.

SXSW through Saturday early afternoon

Greetings from Austin, the capitol of everything, and even more so during SXSW.

This is my first time at the interactive section of the conference, though I have done the music side before (1991, 1993, 1999, 2002).I have met lots of great folks, both entrepreneurs and small businesses from the Portland scene as well folks as from large companies such as Google, HP, Frito Lay, the University of Maryland’s medical school, GSD&M, Intel, Wieden + Kennedy, and others. I am connecting the threads of what I see happening here with my research on social media over the last fifteen years. I also learned what an information architect does.

What are people talking about? Glad you asked…

  • Social media marketing panel on first day had an overflow audience. Lots of folks who desire answers when they need to start with questions. Not that I know what was actually said in there, seeing as I had to go to a panel next door on using blogs and twitter to find deals (hint: Groupon). Also (and this makes total sense), retweets carry more currency than tweets. A panelist in another session said they were worth 18X the currency of the original tweet.
  • A panel promoting Brian Solis’ new book featured high-powered special guests including Jeremiah Owyang, Frank Eliason (Comcast Cares), and Dennis Crowley (FourSquare). I liked Solis as a speaker, and was intrigued that he seemed to utilize a mode of speaking designed for soundbites, or to put it in 2010 vernacular, Tweets. I couldn’t detect the primary argument (buy the book perhaps?), but was enthralled by the stream through which he paddled.
  • Panel on crowdsourcing distinguished between crowd and community. The former has a common purpose, but features interpersonal isolation. The latter has a purpose as well, but is sustainable.
  • The future of influence featured four panelists weighing in on the truth or bull of a series of statements such as “The value of influence is clear” and “The role of ‘expert’ is dead.”
  • danah boyd gave the keynote on privacy versus publicity.  She used two recent corporate failures (Google Buzz and Facebook privacy settings of December 2009) to explicate what people expect in the way of privacy. I was struck by the generational challenges– parents today have no reference point to what their kids deal with on the Internet; there is no “back in my day” that you can say to them.  And whereas parents look at SM for what they can lose, teens look at it for what they can gain.

Right now LLCoolJ is promoting Boomdizzle via a Skype conference right next to me. The guy setting up the conference called him Todd (his real name) when they conversed one-on-one (outside of the view of most people). If I were a rapper, I would insist everyone call me by my rap name, FiveBall ThugR.