Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-3-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Lennis G. Echterling

Cara Meixner

Michele Kielty


The purpose of this study was to examine young adults’ use of social media, qualities of their interpersonal relationships, and the intersection of the two. This primarily qualitative research study set out to investigate the qualities of relationships under the theoretical umbrellas of attachment, existentialism, and neuroscience. In particular, this grounded theory study examined how relationships might differ in on-line and face-to-face interactions, and answered the broad question, “What is the impact of increased engagement with others through computer-mediated communication, which involves less sharing of physical space and real time, on one’s perception of others and self?” The research design was a primarily qualitative study with an embedded quantitative survey. Participants were recruited from the undergraduate student body at James Madison University, a convenient and purposeful sample. The study was conducted in three phases, using multiple sources of documentation: focus groups, on-line questionnaires, and individual interviews. The qualitative data analysis resulted in a rich, descriptive theory regarding computer-mediated communication use among young adults and its impact on the development and maintenance of meaningful relationships. Out of the data emerged eight themes: Expressed Preference for Face-to-Face Social Interactions, Tacit Preference for On-line Social Interactions, Qualities of Intimacy, Expressed Motivations for Social Media Use, Unwritten Rules Guiding Social Media Use, Tacit Motivations for Social Media Use, Self Perceptions, and Awareness of Others.

Included in

Psychology Commons



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