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The expressive and conversational affordances of mobile messaging

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This study investigates the popularity of mobile messaging as a social medium. Using data from an Internet questionnaire (N = 635) on the use of the short message service (SMS) for mobile phone text messaging ('texting'), we examine two components of an affordance pathways hypothesis of SMS uptake: (1) mobile phone users must first discover and make use of hidden social affordances of texting in order to obtain significant interpersonal benefit from the medium, and (2) key social and psychological variables differentially predispose users to capitalise on these affordances. We developed and validated latent factor measures of texting affordances and relationship outcomes, examined the differential effects of a range of predictor variables on these measures, and tested a model in which the expressive and conversational use of texting mediates the effects of social anxiety, loneliness, age, and relationship status on relationship outcomes. This model proved a significant fit to the data, and was superior to alternative models which systematically varied the causal priority of SMS affordances and relationship outcomes. The results suggest that young, single, and socially anxious mobile phone users are predisposed to recognise and take advantage of the social functionality of SMS to enrich their personal relationships.

Keywords: SMS; affordance; mobile telephony; text messaging

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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