Implications of improper email format in an academic community

By Guest Author Kelly Roby

I see parallels in the social consequences of improper email etiquette in academia and business. I believe that the parallels of increased use of technology and lack of focus on proper communication have grown at a rapid rate.

Stephens et al., conducted two studies using Interaction Adaption Theory (IAT) to examine improper or casual out-of-classroom emails and the impact these had on the student, student credibility, message attitude and overall willingness of a professor to comply with simple requests for a face-to-face meeting. IAT helps explain how individuals choose to respond to communication in either a matching or complementary manner. To accurately predict a response to interaction IAT uses three conditions:

  • Requirements (R)-what the receiver feels is necessary in an interaction
  • Expectations (E)-anything anticipated in the interaction and typically considered social norms or prescriptions
  • Desires (D)-what one hopes or prefers to occur in the interaction

R, E, and D form to make the interaction position (IP). When this position is compared to actual behavior (A), a positive or negative reaction occurs.

Study one utilized 152 instructors ranging from full-time tenured professors to adjunct faculty, with an average age of 38.0 years. It attempted to identify the affect on instructor opinion towards the student by manipulating message quality and familiarity.

Study two involved a more-pinpointed effort to expound on the results of study one. The intent was to identify whether generational differences had influence on student email content, why students might violate instructor expectations and the specific email aspects that bother professors more than students.

The results of the two studies points to a correlation between the use of casual email and text messaging. While generational aspects were evident, they were not significant enough to explain the reason for student decorum in out of class communication and professors’ response and opinions to such violations. The results supported the general consensus of a need for instructional emails from professors, and also identified a negative opinion towards students with casual or improper email. It is hypothesized that second and third order effects of continued violations could follow students to the business world and possibly generate the same affects from future employers and business relationships.

All in all it appears that with the increase of technology, the perceived need for training on proper correspondence rules and techniques has changed. With the rush of everyday life and immediate electronic conversations via texting, it appears that young students are creating habits that might echo beyond school. Effective communication is a vital skill in the business world. If students do not learn proper etiquette, it is quite likely they will expose themselves to embarrassment and criticisms in a business environment were perception is reality. Their communication with professors is a good place to start!

Stephens, K.K., Houser, M.L., & Cowan, R.L. (2009). R U Able to Meat Me: The Impact of Students’ Overly Casual Email Messages to Instructors. Communication Education58(3), 303-326.

What we use social media for

Research by NM Incite reveals some notable but not terribly shocking data regarding why people engage with social media.

From the highlights:

Not surprisingly, the top drivers of social media use among social networkers are keeping in touch with family and friends (89% and 88%, respectively) and finding new friends (70%).  Another driver of use is the desire to view and contribute to reviews of products and services as 68 percent of social media users go to social networking sites to read product reviews and over half use these sites to provide product feedback, both positive and negative.  Other top reasons social media users engage in social networking include entertainment (67%), as a creative outlet (64%), to learn about products (58%), and to get coupons or promotions (54%).

I am surprised people use it more to praise a product than to bury one, given  often I see people airing out their grievances about products on Twitter. On the other hand, people do not generally like the Facebook pages of a company that they dislike.

Reading Between the Lines: What Our E-mails Say About Our Near and Far Relationships

By Guest Author Elizabeth Worlein

As a busy woman, a girlfriend in a long-distance relationship, and friend that is hard to reach by phone, I have wondered how my use of technology impacts my relationships. What does my use of e-mail say about my relationships with my friends, my romantic partner, and my family?

Johnson, Haigh, Becker, Craig, and Wigley attempt to answer this question in a recent study. Two hundred and twenty-six college students submitted their personal e-mail messages that they received in one week. The researchers examined how the e-mails maintained the students’ relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. The researchers also examined how relationships were maintained between people that were geographically close, and those that were long-distance. Researchers observed five main behaviors people exhibited to maintain their relationships in the three types of relationships:


  • Openness (sharing your experience, feelings, etc.)
  • Social Networks (references to events, school, or other relationships)
  • Positivity (e.g. “Have a great day!”)
  • Assurances (e.g. “I love you.”)
  • Joint Activities (e.g. “See you Monday!”)


  • Openness
  • Social Networks
  • Positivity
  • Joint Activities
  • Miscellaneous (Sign-offs, emoticons, etc.)

Romantic Partners:

  • Assurances
  • Openness
  • Positivity
  • Social Networks
  • Referring to cards, letters, or calls

This study illustrates that through the use of e-mail, we can continue to maintain our relationships when we are not face-to-face. What we communicate over e-mail, such as assurances or positivity, is similar to what we use to maintain our relationships when we are face-to-face with the person. The results indicate that our interactions over e-mail are not very different if we are near to or far away from the person.

What does this study’s finding say about our relationships?  Perhaps what we are communicating illustrates what we value in that relationship. For example, we may maintain friendships and family relationships to talk about our everyday experiences. For our romantic partners, we seek to communicate the importance of our relationship through assurances and openness. From all of these relationships, we are seeking positivity and openness, among many other values. Nothing radical happening on e-mail compared to any other venue–just another venue upon which to share the human condition.

Johnson, A., Haigh, M., Becker, J., Craig, E., & Wigley, S. (2008). College Students’ Use of Relational Management Strategies in Email in Long-Distance and Geographically Close Relationships. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, 381-404.

Long-Distance Warps Our Perceptions of Romantic Partners

By Guest Author Lyndsey ChamberlainRabby blog cell phone

As a person in a long distance dating relationship (LDDR), I found it interesting that couples in a LDDR say they are happier then geographically close dating relationships (GCDR). I also was interested to learn that idealization of each other in a long distance dating relationship can adversely affect the relationship when a couple reunites.

In a survey of 122 heterosexual couples from a large Midwestern university, Stafford and Merolla looked at whether idealization may influence why LDDR are more stable and in some cases more satisfied with their relationship.

They also factored in days between face to face communication and other forms of communication, i.e., telephone. Stafford and Merolla found LDDR spend less time together than GCDR face to face and there is no great difference between how much LDDR and GCDR communicate by other means. They also found that idealization in LDDR increased when the time between face to face communications increased. LDDR also seemed to say they were happier with their relationships then the GCDR did. This is an example of how idealization can form false impressions of a partner.

In a separate survey of approximately 400 Midwestern college students, Stafford and Merolla conducted a second study, based off the first, saying idealization, type and frequency of communication, and other relational characteristics can predict long-term stability for LDDR who remain long distant or become geographically close.

Participants completed a survey on quality of marital index adapted for dating partners, global commitment scale, idealistic distortion scale and a whether or not each partner want to live in the same location as their partner. They looked at research points from the time they contacted the couples and then again after 6 months had passed to inquire about the couples relational status. Of the sample, half stayed distant and the other half moved closer.  82% of couples that moved close ended the relationship and only 40% that stayed distant ended the relationship. Stafford and Merolla found there is more stability in LDDR that stay distant then ones that become close. They determined idealistic distortion kept the LDDR intact. They also found couples who became geographically close and had more face to face communication during the separation had more stable relationships than others in the study.

If interested in lowering the idealization for a partner, it is important to increase face to face communication and be honest with each other and the changes in one another’s lives. To reduce idealization, be realistic when thinking of a long distant partner’s true qualities.

A problem that LDDR couples encounter with their partners when they become geographically close is having overly optimistic views of one another. They may feel like they know each other completely but then feel like they reunite with a stranger. More realistic people may experience less relational trouble when they reunite because they can be better prepared for the changes. LDDR should also increase the frequency they talk about important beliefs rather than avoid them to avoid disagreement during one of the few face to face interactions. This will help a couple because they will not have a false impression of future plans.

Stafford, L., & Merolla, A. (2007). Idealization, reunions, and stability in long-distance dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 37-54

One Experiment of How People Judge You on Facebook

By Guest Author Kirsten Bergstrom

In an experiment by Utz, 124 Hyves (a popular Dutch Social Network Site, or SNS, similar to Facebook) users gave their impression about a mock profile of Anouk Jansen using a 5-point scale.  The subjects judged Anouk based on her profile picture (extroverted, lively facial expression vs. introverted, sitting alone on the edge of a river), number of friends (82 vs. 382), and her friend’s profile pictures (extroverted pictures vs. introverted pictures).  The participants judged three factors:

  • Popularity (unpopular/popular, unsocial/social): Anouk was judged to be more popular when she had an extroverted profile than an introverted profile, had 382 friends, and had extroverted pictures of friends.  Self-generated information (profile picture) had the strongest impact.
  • Communal orientation (unfriendly/friendly, dishonest/honest):  The difference between Anouk’s introverted profile picture with introverted friends and Anouk’s extroverted profile with extroverted friends had little significant difference.  However, when the extroverted profile had introverted friends and the introverted profile had extroverted friends, her communal orientation score dropped significantly.
  • Social attractiveness (“I would like to spend time with Anouk”): When Anouk’s friends had introverted profiles pictures, she was perceived as more socially attractive with 382 friends than 82 friends.  When they had extroverted profile pictures, Anouk was slightly, but not significantly, more socially attractive when she had 382 friends than when she had 82 friends.

Utz, S. (2010). Show me your friends and I will tell you what type of person you are: How one’s profile, number of friends, and type of friends influence impression formation on social network sites.  Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15, 314-335.

Texting While Driving as a Pre-Meditated Act

Texting while driving image of a road From DQMountaingirlAs any Oprah watcher can tell you, texting while driving is a problem. We can make it illegal (it is in a majority of States), but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate what to many still seems like an innocuous act. A coinciding approach involves looking at the reasons people engage in the behavior, and engaging motivations by starting with intentions. Nemme and White took this approach, a variation of the Theory of Planned Behavior, in their study of 17-24 year-old Australian students.

They looked at five factors that contributed to intention to text while driving:

  1. Attitude towards texting
  2. Subjective norm, or the person’s perceptions about how others feel about texting while driving
  3. Past behavior
  4. Group Norm, or if the people they know read or send text messages while driving
  5. Moral Norm, or if the person feels it is a right or wrong action

Following the theory of planned behavior, these factors lead to intention, which then leads to behavior (measured a week later as both sending and receiving texts). Perceived behavioral control, or how much control the person feels she/he has over his/her behaviors, also influences both intention and behavior.

They found that 1) attitude predicted intentions to send and read, 2) subjective norm and perceived behavior control predicted sending but not reading, 4) past behavior is the strongest predictor of intentions and behavior, and 4) adding group norms and moral norms (an addition to the Theory of Planned Behavior) strengthened the model they posited in the paper.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to deter people involves stressing that driving while texting is a shameful behavior, and that your friends do not do it, nor do they approve of it. Think of how you never thought a thing of one-time-only usage bags for your groceries, until you realized you were one of the only people who didn’t bring their own. Others retain a large hold on our behaviors even though we would like to think we left this behind long-ago in high school.

Nemme, H. E., & White, K. M. (2010). Texting while driving: Psychosocial influences on young people’s texting intentions and behavior. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42, 1257-1265.

How and Why Students Use Instant Messaging

By Guest Author Carolyn Borsch

Ding: You have 12 billion messages. Well, maybe not, but that’s how many instant messages (IMs) get sent each day, worldwide, among 510 million users.

Quan-Haase examined a wide-range of studies involving North American college and middle/high school students regarding their instant messaging habits, with whom they use IM to communicate, and the effects of IM on their social and academic life. Quan-Haase made the following baseline observations:

  • High use abounds across the board.
  • Speed, availability of information, and support for multiple conversations and multitasking attract students to this form of communication.
  • IM is used to form and maintain communities and social ties, minimizes the gap felt between long distance communicators (like friends back home), and increase closeness– sense of psychological connection between two people.
  • IM is informal, and convenient to send messages not phone call worthy.
  • Certain features help maintain and promote students’ identity.
  • IM is used to stay in touch with classmates, friends, family members, and to meet new people. However, it is used more frequently to talk with friends on campus than friends back home.
  • In-person meetings are still important, even though they take place less often.
  • There is an increase in the use of IM by faculty and staff at universities. Professors hold virtual office hours and use IM to connect students with libraries for reference help.

On the plus side, IM provides a new environment for collaboration with peers, professors, librarians, technicians, and other experts. It also correlates with greater numbers of social ties (something that more recent studies continue to indicate). However, possible negative effects include 1) the diminished quality of a student’s writing- very few professors actually think that writing quality has declined since the introduction of the internet, 2)  multitasking leading to less attention on homework and studying, interfering with a student’s focus, and 3) students find it difficult to ignore an IM.

Capturing and measuring IM use can be difficult, as many different levels of engagement exist.  Quan-Haase suggests measuring IM use by initially measuring overall time logged in, measuring time spent screening IM users, time spent reading/writing IM messages, time spent checking the IM buddy list, and time spent on administrative tasks like updating profile information.

Quan-Haase, A. (2008). Instant Messaging on campus: Use and integration in university students’ everyday communication. The Information Society, 24, 105-115.

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.