Maintaining Friendships Through Computer- Mediated Communication: An Investigation of University Students’ Use of Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication

Zhuo, Lan
Smith, Philippa
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Master of English and New Media Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

This study investigates the ways in which university students maintain their existing friendships through different forms of computer-mediated communication (CMC). It aims to contribute to a greater understanding about differences between students’ use of asynchronous communication (that is, communication that has a time lag or is intermittent such as online comment sections, texts, and social media messaging) and synchronous communication (that is, platforms or apps that involve real-time communication such as facetime and live call). In applying polymedia theory which is concerned with the relationship between these different forms of media and interpersonal communication, this study aims to offer a greater understanding about how people maintain their existing friendships more productively by digital means.

The research applies a positivist methodological approach that involves quantitative and qualitative research in collecting and analyzing the data from an online survey of 60 international and domestic students attending various universities in Auckland, New Zealand. They were asked about their media preferences for using either asynchronous or synchronous communications in the maintenance of their friendships. Factors relating to their choices included: the efficiency of the technology, participants relational stage with a friend (i.e. close or just an acquaintance), the type of situation with a friend (eg any conflicts or issues), intimacy, geographical distance, location (eg home or university) and time of day, as well as participants’ background attributes (eg gender, time spent living in Auckland). The data was analyzed quantitatively using statistical analysis through Qualtrics and excel statistical software.

The findings of the study showed that social media instant messaging (that is, synchronous communication) was the most popular method used by this sample of university students. However, it was also found that they switched between different communication methods for friendship maintenance and their decision making in doing this was affected by the various factors and motivations above.

Computer mediated communication , Friendship , Polymedia , Synchronous communication , Asynchronous communication
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