The value of face-to-face communication in the digital world: What people miss about in-person interactions when those are limited
Keywords:interpersonal communication, face-to-face communication, digital communication, computer-mediated communication, social interaction, survey data, COVID-19, U. S.
Face-to-face communication is important for building and maintaining relationships. The COVID-19 pandemic led to severe limitations in people’s face-to-face interactions, resulting in most people relying more heavily on digital communication for social connection. Existing research has contributed to the understanding of how face-to-face communication is used alongside digital communication. However, we know little about what elements of face-to-face interactions people miss especially when in-person meetings are heavily reduced, and how this is related to their use of digital communication for social connection. In this study, we draw upon survey data that we collected in spring 2020 from a national sample of U. S. adults to answer these questions. We find that most people missed elements of face-to-face interactions and particularly valued spontaneous interactions, physical closeness, and independence from technology about in-person interactions. More frequent and increasing use of popular digital modes such as voice calls, video calls, text messages, and social media were all positively related to missing face-to-face communication. Our results contribute to the understanding of the role and value of in-person interactions in a digital world.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Jonathan Gruber, Eszter Hargittai, Minh Hao Nguyen
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