Thesis Title

The Development of Romantic Relationships Through Computer-Mediated Communication: Synchronous Vs. Asynchronous Interaction

Date of Graduation

Spring 1999


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Charlene Berquist


This exploratory study compared the developmental processes of romantic relationships that were initially developed through synchronous vs. asynchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC). Fifteen participants who were currently involved in romantic relationships that were initially developed via synchronous CMC participated in the study. Participants completed demographic questions via email prior to an outline in depth interview that was conducted through real-time synchronous channels. The study demonstrated that intimate, deeply personal relationships are being formed online, all with the benefit of face-to-face (FtF) communication. Interview data provided evidence that many romantic relationships developed through synchronous CMC also develop at an accelerated rate compared to asynchronous and FtF environments. Loneliness, social isolation, low self-esteem and communicative style are identified as motivational factors. Participants were not initially motivated to go online in order to establish romantic relationships, however some were seeking sexual gratification. Attraction and development processes involving similarity, disclosure, and honesty, are discussed as they relate to online romantic relationship development. The various communication channels utilized by the participants are identified, including email communication, telephone, letters and pictures, as well as synchronous communication channel use. Numerous turning point events that influenced the intensity and/or the direction of these relationships were identified in the study, including the first phone call, the exchange of pictures and the face-to-face meeting. Current interpersonal and relational development models are challenged by CMC relationship development. New models, or modifications of existing models, must be developed to accurately reflect development of romantic relationships in the computer-mediated environment.

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© Pamela Dianne King