More Evidence that Online Communication Leads to Feelings of Closeness to Others

By Guest Author Hannah A.

Once again, one of the primal questions of how people relate on the Internet–is the presence of Internet communication helping or harming their relationships? In this case, we look at teenagers and pre-teenagers.

794 Dutch adolescents, between the ages of 10-16, were given a series of questionnaires within their school classrooms.  The research conducted by Valkenburg and Peter focused upon three main points:

  • How Internet communication affects closeness to friends
  • How the users perceive the breadth and depth of the communication
  • How loneliness and social anxiety could alter the results

Teenagers use Internet to help relationships by Frerieke; Internet relationships; teenagers Their research leaned toward the hypothesis that most adolescents use the Internet to become closer with the friends that they already have, as opposed to using it to talk to strangers.  They found that, in addition, adolescents feel closer to their friends when they talk to them on the Internet, showing that this communication only helps strengthen the relationships in all age groups that were tested.

In regards to how much breadth and depth can be reached through online communication, 30% of the sampled group thought that online communication can be more effective for self disclosure and sharing private information than offline discussions.

Lastly, this study supported the rich-get-richer hypothesis, in that it showed most adolescents who pursue online communication are generally not lonely or socially anxious. Rather, doing so enhances existing relationships or promotes new ones.

The evidence here suggests that the Internet is not having a negative effect on the lives or development of adolescents in this generation, at least in terms feelings of connectedness to others.  For parents, this means not worrying if that if your child talks with their friends online, this can indicate anti-social behavior.  They are disconnected from the real world, but rather are enhancing their relationships.  For adolescents, this study indicates that reliance should not be solely on the internet, but on the symbiosis that can be achieved with existing friendships and those online.

Valkenburg. P.M., & Peter, J. (2007). Preadolescents’ and Adolescents’ Online Communication and Their Closeness to Friends. Developmental Psychology, 43, , 267-277.

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Michael Rabby, PhD, serves as a consultant, author & professor specializing in social media, relationship building, and statistics-based research. Here, I muse about these things, along with the occasional comment about music, sports, and whatever else strikes my fancy. After all, it is still communication.