The use of Instant Messaging (IM) by teenagers is becoming increasingly popular, and has become an object of media attention (Grinter & Palen, 2002). According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project (2005), IM usage is so popular among adolescents, that 75% of them use it and 65% report that they use IM to communicate with their friends (Lloyd, Meszaros, & Gotow, 2006). Adolescence is defined by a strong need for numerous friendships and peer-group affiliations. In addition, this developmental period is typically defined by the need for person-to-person communication with friends (Boneva, Quinn, Kraut, Kiesler, & Shlovski, 2006; Lloyd et al., 2006). IM is one of the latest communication devices available to adolescents to satisfy this need (Boneva et al., 2006).
Introduction of any new communication technology will have important implications for the culture and for social relationships (Narula, 1988). It would be interesting to determine the impact of IM usage on adolescents' interpersonal relationships in real life. Some research has focused on IM usage (Grinter & Palen, 2002; Boneva et al., 2006; Lloyd et al., 2006) while others have focused on the communicative function of IM (Schiano, Chen, Ginsberg, Gretarsdottir, Huddleston, & Isaacs, 2002; Boneva et al., 2006). However, even with all this interest, little is known about the correlation of interaction of teenagers via IM and the development of their interpersonal relationships in real life.
Lin and colleagues (2007) argue that the use of IM acts as a mediator between real and virtual interpersonal communication, leading directly to the individual's virtual interpersonal relationship. Nevertheless, their finding mentions little about the influence of IM usage on the real self-identity and social-identity of the adolescent. In order to answer these questions, this paper reports the findings from a quantitative study of this population.
The originator of IM is Jarkko Oikarinen who in 1988 created Internet Relay Chat--a synchronous computer-mediated messaging system defined as a type of communication service that enables the creation of a private chat room with other users (Hung, Huang, Yen, & Chang, 2007). IM allows users to send and receive short, text-based messages in real-time and to see who else is "online" and available to receive messages (Cameron & Webster, 2005). In short, IM has three features: exchange brief messages in order to address a single purpose (analogous to face-to-face communication through the application of multimedia technologies), and allows the user to multi-task at the same time (Isaacs, Walendowski, Whittaker, Schiano, & Kamm, 2002).
Peer-based connectedness is especially important to adolescents (Hellenga, 2002). Interaction and communication among teens is rooted in a desire to express their needs on an equal footing. This interaction enhances their sense of belonging and helps them understand their individual self and others (Lin et al., 2007). There are two types of relationships: forming and maintaining individual friendships, and belonging to peer groups (Boneva et al., 2006). According to Kyratzi (2004), peer communication is a means of establishing and maintaining peer culture and is an essential device teens can use to display their identities and ideologies.
Adolescence, a development period, is typically defined by the need for face-to-face communication with friends. However, teens have limited time to interact with friends at school and may not be independent enough to meet with peers after school (Grinter & Eldridge, 2001; Schianno et al., 2002).
In this study, the term "interpersonal relationship" denotes the exchange between individuals of thoughts, feeling, expectations, perceptions, and behavior (Heider 1959). According to Schutz (1958), the model of Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation (FIRO) explains interpersonal behavior in terms of individual orientation toward others regarding three interpersonal needs: inclusion, control, and affection (Minahan & Hutton, 2004). …