Jiali Ye

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jaye Atkinson - Chair


Computer-mediated communication (CMC), such as electronic mail and newsgroups, is quickly becoming a pervasive interpersonal communication means. The general research purpose of the present study is to investigate the communicative strategies individuals use to maintain exclusively Internet-based friendships and the extent to which cultural, relational and channel-related factors may affect the use of these strategies. A total of 136 Chinese Internet users and 134 American Internet users completed an online survey that measured maintenance strategies that they used for sustaining a friendship that they had developed on the Internet, their online friendship relational experience (relational and partner certainty and relational equity), and communication channel-related variables (perceived social presence of the Internet and anticipation of face-to-face interactions in the near future). Participants were also asked to think of an offline “real-life” friendship and to answer questions about relational maintenance strategies used for sustaining this friendship. The results suggested that overall people use more prosocial relational maintenance strategies in their offline friendships than in their online friendship. However, this pattern was moderated by friendship status. The gap of frequencies of relational maintenance strategies in online and offline friendships was particularly large for casual friendships. With regard to antisocial maintenance strategies, participants reported more coercion/criticism in offline friendships but more deception in online friendships. Consistent with the prior findings concerning cultural variations in relational maintenance, the current study found that the American participants more frequently used prosocial maintenance strategies than did the Chinese participants in both online and offline friendships. On the other hand, the Chinese participants were more likely to use all types antisocial maintenance strategies than their American counterparts in both online and offline friendships. The result of the current study confirmed that varied degrees of relational uncertainty and relational equity are associated with the use of relational maintenance strategies. The findings also indicated the impact of communication channel-related factors on online friendship maintenance strategies. In sum, the findings of this cross-cultural study lent credence to the view that meaningful relationships are maintained via CMC. This study has added knowledge about ways this new technology used in sustaining relationships across different national cultures.


Included in

Communication Commons