Mobile Phone Use Enhances Social Connectedness

Mobile Phone Use Enhances Social Connectedness

Dominic Mentor (Teachers College, Columbia University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch056
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This article focuses on the relationship between everyday mobile messaging and social connectedness. It highlights studies in which people use mobile messaging as a means of cultivating and maintaining social connectedness. The article delves into the relevance of social connectedness through mobile messaging on a personal, group, and macro level. Included is a review of research studies and their methodologies on how mobile messaging, like texting, has been repurposed within organizations for a variety of service objectives, including mobile learning. The concept of social connectedness, as fostered by mobile phone messaging, is important in people's lives as it reflects their continuous and affective interactions and experiences with a single friend, family member, or a group. The cultivation of social connectedness can be used as an agent for socio-emotional goals that can feed healthy outlooks for various constituents of all ages. The potential constructive impact of social connectedness for people in mobile messaging communities vary from feelings of belonging and perceived usefulness to academic success.
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This chapter explores the literature on social connectedness and mobile phone messaging, including regular SMS texting. SMS stands for short message service, the international term for texting. As texting (a common American term for SMS) and cross-platform mobile instant messaging have gained a prominent place in the social and communication spheres, professionals from many disciplines have drawn their attention to it by implementing or investigating the use of mobile messaging in their fields (Chayko, 2007; Katz, 2008; Ling, 2004; Matsuda, 2005; Schroeder, 2005). The findings of these studies collates around a connectedness to people, nurturing and/or maintaining a sense of belonging, as well as the ability to now convert one’s physical network into a mobile portable community. These findings are still applicable and transferable to cross-platform mobile messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kakao, Line, WeChat and Kik. The findings are also relevant for any migration of use from personal messaging to institutional and wide scale macro related mobile messaging like recent crowdsourcing and revolutionary moments in northern Africa during the Spring of 2011 (Potts, 2011).

Although the mobile phone is still most often used for personal communication, it is also powerful in creating and facilitating social connectedness that can lead to change, as we learned from the macro level impact of mobile messaging during the Egyptian revolution and a number of other Arab Spring movements. Social connectedness is a concept used by social theorists and psychologists to explain the occurrence, value, quantity, and regularity of exchanges we have with people in our social network of family, friends, and acquaintances. These connections can be fostered in the physical realm of life as well as in virtual spaces. The notion of social connectedness has often been used to characterize degrees of interpersonal trust, attachment security, social competency, and a sense of belonging (Lee & Robbins, 1995). While we know that the mobile phone is a social device, it also offers video and photography on-the-go so that the mobile phone can now, as we so often see, be re-purposed for digital activism, human agency and mobile journalism in the palm of one’s hand. The mobile phone does not just connect people to individuals they know; it connects them to a cause. Lessons abound from the south to the north of Africa, Asia, the United States of America (USA), and the rest of the world.

The literature examined in this chapter is divided into three sections. The first section looks at the relationship between everyday mobile messaging from SMS/texting (these terms will be used interchangeably) and social connectedness as well as studies in which people use texting as a means of cultivating and maintaining social relations. This part of the chapter will delve into the relevance of social connectedness for person-to-person texting, levels of familiarity and the need for reciprocity or acknowledgement of message receipt. The second section includes a review of research studies and their methodologies on organizational texting as well as organizational projects that have utilized texting for a variety of service purposes. These projects are housed within non-profits, universities, and other public sector institutions across the domains of health, education, and media. The re-purposing focus will probe why or how organizational texting is similar or different from person-to-person texting and how those similarities or differences might influence the texting communication. The third section speaks to the macro level connectedness as fostered by mobile phone messaging as a lead up to and as a part of people connecting to a cause.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Socio-Emotional: The concept of socio-emotional aspects refers to a person initiating, cultivating and responding to others, to form relationships with other people in their lives such as parents, relatives and friends. These socio-emotional aspects can be ephemeral or long-standing, when it comes to interactions with people. Typically with familiar, but not excluding unfamiliar people. It can span the spectrum of how people interact with others to how they manage communication or cope with adversity, stress, establish positive relationship and the capacity to develop relationships with peers, often times through communication.

Mobile Social Media: Social communication and networking where affiliated individuals with dis/similar interests converse and connect virtually and/or in-person with one another through their mobile phone, handheld and/or tablet device.

Social Connectedness: Concept often been used to characterize degrees of interpersonal trust, attachment security, social competency, and a sense of belonging, online and in real world.

Co-presence: The practice of people engaging in real-time face-to-face social activities and being engrossed in the here and now of that social activity, but also being virtually present and via texting or mobile messaging with dual occupation of real and virtual space.

Mobile Messaging: Mobile messaging typically from a mobile phone or mobile device. Examples include SMS texting, Multimedia Message Service (MMS) to a host of wireless access protocol (WAP) mobile messaging services like WhatsApp, WeChat, Kakao, Kik, Line, etc. The latter being device agnostic, meaning they can be installed and used on many different types of mobile phone platforms.

Connected Presence: Unconstrained connections from time and place, refers to people situated in a different physical location, but splitting their attention and connecting via virtual means with another location or person located elsewhere.

Mobile Crowdsourcing: Mobile crowdsourcing describes the collation of a large group of people’s views and/or observations. These crowdsourcing activities are processed on mobile phones or other handheld mobile devices.

Mobile Learning: Also known as mLearning refers to creating, leveraging or designing learning opportunities via portable technologies from and/or for interpersonal and organizational mobile communication.

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