A Note to Mom: Why I Use Instant Messaging

By Eric Chu, echu508 @ stanford.edu

A debate my mother and I always have whenever she finds me sitting in front of the computer is whether or not I'm really doing "anything" when I sit there. I let her win when she catches me playing computer games, but when I'm using instant messaging, I'm not too sure that she's right. Hence, in an attempt to throw the odds against my mother, I decided to do some research. I hypothesized that IM, unlike what my mother posits, is a social bonding tool--like using the telephone.

>> Some researchers, like Nie, Hillygus, and Erbring, believe that time spent on the Internet can be socially detrimental. Because IM belongs as a part of Internet use, I and two of my classmates studied the social effects of IM on interpersonal relationships. Allen Cheung [see his results] studied IM's effect on friendships within the Stanford campus, Juan Marquez [see his results] studied the effects of IM within the dorm, and I studied the effects of IM on distant friendships.

>> My study, based on personal experience, interviews, and an informal (non-scientific) survey of 120 Stanford students, reveals that neither my mom nor myself are fully correct. Instead, a sort of paradox exists between IM usage and socialization. IM takes up much more time than traditional interactions and is much less intimate than face-to-face interactions; however, most students (91%) use it to communicate with distant friends (friends not on campus) and strengthen their relationships. IM can also be used to foster romantic relationships (see Abe's project) and gender interactions (see Chris's project), but my study focuses more on the pros and cons of using IM and its effects on pre-established friendships.

>> IMs are Time-Consuming
>> IMs are Less Intimate | Chart
>> Keeping in Touch and Opening Up on IM
>> IM or Face-to-face?
>> Conclusion
>> Appendix: Graph of Statement Agreement
>> References

[IM & Mom | 257 kb]


Other Projects
::Allen's ::Eric's::Chris's::Juan's::Abe's::

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Last Updated: Sat June 7, 2003 4:43 PM