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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A comparison of criticism received face-to-face or via text message among young adults : does mode of communication matter? DeClerck, Drew


The popularity of text messaging has increased dramatically in the last decade, such that most young adults use this form of communication daily. The extent to which negative exchanges over text messaging can impact wellbeing in the same way as face-to-face communication remains unclear. In the computer-mediated communication literature, cues-filtered-out theories predict that the impact of text messaging would be weaker, given its lack of tone and non-verbal cues. However, proponents of the social information processing theory argue that strategies are developed when using a new communication technology resulting in an increased ability to have meaningful communications. According to adaptive structuration theories, individual psychological characteristics also likely play an important role in determining one’s reaction to text messaging, but this has also received little empirical attention. The present study aimed to address the current gaps in the literature by using a laboratory-based experimental paradigm to compare the effects of criticism provided face-to-face and via text message to a no-criticism control group, and to examine the moderating effects of rejection sensitivity and rumination. A total of 170 emerging adults took part in an acute laboratory stressor followed by either: 1) text message criticism (n = 53), 2) face-to-face criticism (n = 58), or 3) no feedback (control; n = 59). Levels of self-reported stress and positive and negative affect were measured at baseline, post-stress-task, and post-feedback. Trait levels of rejection sensitivity and rumination were also assessed post-feedback. Using ANCOVA procedures, it was determined that critical feedback via text message and face-to-face were both associated with significantly lower levels of positive affect compared to the control group (findings related to stress and negative affect were in the expected directions, but were non-significant). No significant moderation effects were found for rejection sensitivity or rumination on the relationship between criticism and subsequent levels of stress or affect. The results suggest that criticism expressed using text messaging can lead to negative emotional outcomes, and at levels similar to face-to-face communication. Future studies would benefit from a more comprehensive assessment of various modes of communication, as well as naturalistic assessment methods, such as intensive longitudinal designs.

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