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Thesis statement: The effects of computer mediated communication on interpersonal and

intercultural communication and its resulting consequences.


Introduction
Human communication has its its orgins in symbolic, oral, and written traditions. As
technology advances, humans are increasingly communicating through electronic means.
Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic (2004) define computer mediated communication (CMC) as the
means by which individuals and groups use the Internet or computer technology to communicate
with each other. CMC has transformed the way people communicate in the world, mainly
because it challenges and shifts away from traditional modes of human communication.
Nowadays there are an increasing number of social media users who wish to communicate and
engage with information available on the Internet. Social media are the collective online
communication channels that allow people to create, share, and/or exchange information and
ideas in virtual communities and networks (Provencher & Moniz, 2014). With currently over
864 million global active users per day, Facebook is one of the most popular social media
websites in the world. Facebooks main mission is to allow people from all over the world to
connect with others, to keep updated on world events, and to share and express what matters to
them (Facebook, 2014). Twitter is another form of social media that connects people across the
globe through microblogging or quick status updates called tweets. Twitter is considered a
great way for communicating messages to large groups of people. Using the internet; video
calling and instant messaging services are also becoming increasingly popular through services
like Skype and Facetime.
In todays society, social networking has become a way of life, and this has affected the
way people interact with each other within communities and with people across the globe. This

The effects of computer mediated communication on interpersonal and intercultural


communication and its resulting consequences
paper aims to discuss the different ways that computer mediated communication has impacted
interpersonal and intercultural communication and its resulting consequences.
Effect of computer mediated communication on interpersonal communication
Kim (2002) defines interpersonal communication as the interaction that takes the form of
verbal and nonverbal exchanges between two (or a small group of) individuals, consciously
aware of each other, usually interacting in the same time and space.
Social media has affected interpersonal communication in many ways. Firstly, social
media allows instant messaging through the Internet which can be accessed on any computer or
mobile device. With different applications like Facetime, Skype and Viber, people can talk to
peers, family, or friends face to face as if they were in the same room or even in groups, for
example through group chats or group video calling.
Social media is shrinking the world faster than before and this is changing the way people
socially interact with each other. While traditional modes of human communication included
sending letters or placing calls to get a message through, now through computer mediated
communication, people can contact each other with a click of a button. An example of making
people becoming aware of where you are at any point of time is the check-in facility on
Facebook which allows a person to post the exact location that he/she is visiting. We can also
share information relating to our travels, thoughts, experiences, articles we find interesting
online, videos, and much more. This promotes more communication between people than would
have otherwise been possible. People nowadays dont need to meet to communicate with each
other, for example students going off to study abroad can message other would be students
through the university Facebook page. They can also message their classmates to get to know
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The effects of computer mediated communication on interpersonal and intercultural


communication and its resulting consequences
what theyre like, and discuss matters relating to their course, hobbies etc. Another example of
interpersonal relationships being built through social media is with Facebook alerts. A person
becomes aware of their Facebook friends birthdays or anniversaries, and consequently it has
become common to send wishes to close family members, friends, classmates, relatives, and
other acquaintances through Facebook. Relationships are changing because of the influence of
the Internet. With constant communication through social media, people are interacting more
than ever, and as a result they are coming closer together. Kim (2002) states that through
positive, affirming verbal messages, immediate responses and communication, CMC allows
intensified interpersonal interaction.
CMC has many downsides that may negatively affect interpersonal communications.
Social media has created a culture of its own on the Internet. This is because with the lack of
shared social norms and standards, the boundaries between the real and virtual world becomes
blurred, and users tend to become aggressive and impulsive which could lead to uninhibited
behaviors (Kim, 2002), for example users are free to post rude and offensive comments on a
persons status update or photos on social media. This creates ill-feelings and resentment among
people especially when remarks are racist, sexist, anti-religious or other kinds of abusive
offences.
Social media also negatively affects interpersonal relationships because of technology
addiction. This is harmful to the social lives of those who use these types of computer-mediated
communication because they end up isolating themselves from actual social relationships.
As people become used to communicating through CMC, they forget the value of face to face
interactions, for example it is very common to see friends at a restaurant in a state of trance on
their phones, checking their Facebook or sending instant messages through Whatsapp or similar
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The effects of computer mediated communication on interpersonal and intercultural


communication and its resulting consequences
social applications rather than actually enjoying the company of people in their physical
presence. Consequently, Kim (2002) states that CMC has an inferior degree of interpersonal
interaction which is in line with the research of Keller (2013) who also finds that social
connections are not strengthened as much through social media as they are face-to-face, and so,
social media builds weak ties and relationships.
Another negative impact of social media on interpersonal communication is that it may
foster negative feelings among family and friends. Social media is the cause for information
overload. It is becoming increasingly common for people to be exposed to more information that
required through social media forums. For example, parents become unhappy with photographs
that are uploaded on social media which show their children in a bad light. According to U.K.
survey by Divorce Online (2012) social media tempts people to engage in unnecessary
conversations, for example to reconnect with old flames and allow people to friend someone
they may only have met once in passing (Fottrell, 2012), and this results in the wrecking of
marriages.
Effect of computer mediated communication on intercultural communication
Lustig & Koester (1993) explain that intercultural communication is a symbolic,
interpretative, transactional, contextual process in which people from different cultures create
shared meaning. According to Chen (2012) CMC not only influences the form and content of
information/messages but it affects how people of different cultures understand each other.
Computer mediated communication especially social media forms like Facebook, Twitter, Skype
and Facetime allow people from all over the world to express themselves in their own distinctive
way. Social media has such a tremendous reach, and consequently, the flexibility of presenting

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The effects of computer mediated communication on interpersonal and intercultural


communication and its resulting consequences
information in cyberspace has positive and negative impacts on intercultural communication
(Chen, 2012).
One of the main uses of social media is that it provides a common forum for people to
communicate and collaborate and this facilitates intercultural dialogue. Social media has also
played an important role in the sharing of cultures. According to Chen (2012), culture is learned
from the people you interact with as you are socialized. While traditional methods of
communication restricted intercultural communication and appreciation to a smaller outreach,
now with Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, people regularly post updates,
videos or photos on cultural happenings, for example religious or national events from their
respective countries. When people explain the nature of events that are happening around them,
it spreads cultural awareness to people of different nationalities.
Social media like Twitter and Facebook overcomes language barriers with the help of
different translation apps that allow people speaking different languages to communicate their
ideas and be understood, where otherwise it would not have been possible. Carter (2010) writes
that in this way social media becomes a place where cultural experiences of life are translated
into the universal language of humankind (Carter, 2010).
In a corporate setting, multinationals can recruit different professionals from all over the
world as required through social media websites like Linkedin. Candidates can publish their
resumes and work experience on Linkedin and seek employment on a global scale. In this way
social media promotes intercultural communication by establishing business relationships
(Chen, 2012).

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The effects of computer mediated communication on interpersonal and intercultural


communication and its resulting consequences
Another area where social media has affected interpersonal communication is through
intercultural adaptation. Chen (2012) writes that immigrants or tourists can communicate their
experiences about their home or host country to friends, relatives and even a general audience,
and this has a significant impact on the process of immigrants intercultural adaptation (Chen,
2012). In this regard, Sandel (2014) finds that a persons experience is enhanced through social
media because online communications help build socio-cultural skills, informational needs,
relational bonds, and psychological well-being (Sandel, 2014).
In regards with foreign language education, Elola&Oskoz (2008) find that blogging had a
positive effect on developing intercultural competences for Spanish students and study abroad
students. The blogs were used as a mediating tool to foster intercultural communication
between the two groups. Lang (2011) also reports that study abroad students benefited from
social network sites because it provided students a peer-mentoring structure and support when
they were out of the country. Moreover, the research found that social networking sites fostered
informal learning, particularly in the area of intercultural communication (Lang, 2012).
On the other hand, social media also has negative impacts on intercultural
communication. Social media can promote deceptive behavior. In absence of face to face
communication, and proper verification of facts, it becomes easy for people to portray the wrong
picture of a particular culture, for example posting about the Israel and Palestine conflict on
social networking sites agitates Muslims and Christians over the world, who are then split into
different viewpoints based on their religion. Revealing negative information threatens the
development of constructive intercultural relationships between people. Consequently, Chen
(2012) finds that social media provides people and governments with a powerful tool to
construct their own image, to define and redefine the meanings of messages, to set the media
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The effects of computer mediated communication on interpersonal and intercultural


communication and its resulting consequences
agenda, or to frame the news or messages which can ultimately lead to intercultural conflict, for
example Googles withdrawal from China after the 2008 media coverage of the Beijing
Olympics (Chen, 2012).
Conclusion
This paper has examined how computer mediated communication has both positively and
negatively affected interpersonal and intercultural communication in todays modern age. CMC
like in the use of different social media tools is becoming progressively more integrated into
peoples daily lives; and this is increasing the human communication process.
In regards with interpersonal communication, social media is allowing people to
exchange information quicker and more conveniently than before and therefore this is
encouraging intense social interactions. On the other hand, social media is also changing the way
we perceive things to create new meaning about events that may not always have a positive
effect on interpersonal relationships. False images, impersonal interactions, and weak social ties
are a few negative consequences that social media creates when people interconnect through
cyberspace.
In regards with intercultural communication, people are increasingly learning about
culture through their interactions with friends, family members and others through the Internet.
CMC has positively affected different aspects of intercultural communication mainly
intercultural relationships and intercultural adaptation. Additionally, social media has changed
the way we perceive things to create new meaning about events and culture. On the other hand,
social media networks like Facebook can also cause the spread of misinformation, where people
falsely believe what is propagated online to the effect that it causes cultural conflict and
misunderstandings.
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The effects of computer mediated communication on interpersonal and intercultural


communication and its resulting consequences
Overall, the scope for CMC to enhance interpersonal and intercultural communication is
huge. Relationships and identities in both an interpersonal and intercultural context are
constantly changing because they are being influenced by the Internet.
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