Even at a time when people talk on cell phones constantly, Jen Smith (not her real name), a 22-year-old graduate student at Towson University in Maryland, prefers to receive her personal messages through a dot-com address.
“I enjoy emails more; email is more lighthearted,” she said.
Smith connects more to email because she has had a more positive experience with it — and she isn’t the only one.
A new study published in Computers in Human Behavior looked at the psycho-physiological responses of people composing emails and voice mails — thinking that the latter would prompt more emotion and arousal. Au contraire: It was the computer correspondence that made the heart go pitter-patter.
The study was done by professors Taylor M. Wells and Alan R. Dennis, of California State University, Sacramento and Indiana University, respectively.
“The ability to edit email made people take time to carefully craft exactly what they wanted to say, so it was more romantic, whereas with voice mail, it was one take and done and if I didn’t do it exactly right, then, ‘Oh well,’” Dennis told LifeZette.
“With voicemail, it was one take and done and if I didn’t do it exactly right, then, ‘Oh well,’” Dennis told LifeZette.
The results could also reflect a generational difference.
“We studied 20-somethings who have grown up with digital media. (It) could be they are used to sending romantic messages in text and email so they are more explicit,” Dennis said.
“I email at work all day, and it seems weirdly professional or distant to be doing that with someone you’re romantically involved with,” one 23-year-old, a University of Maryland graduate, told LifeZette.
The clinical research coordinator at Children’s National Health System declined to be named for the interview, but said that she found the results unexpected.
“I’m a bit surprised. The only reason I could think of is maybe emails are longer and more detailed, whereas voice mails might seem more perfunctory.”
The findings dovetail with her hypothesis: The studied email messages used stronger and more romantic thoughts and language than the voicemails.
“Because email is ‘poor’ for communicating emotion, our participants may have consciously or subconsciously added additional emotional language to their messages to overcome the limitations inherent in email,” Wells told LifeZette.
Wells also said this could apply to other electronic communication.
“The results should apply to text-based media like texting, Facebook Messenger, and other instant-messaging services like Whatsapp and others. We saw our participants adapt to the perceived limitations of email by adding in additional emotional language. I expect text messaging and instant messaging would be the same,” Wells said.
Dennis and Wells plan to expand their study to include different media and populations. They’ve already studied how recipients respond when they receive voicemails and emails, and that study will be published in the future.
So, the next time you meet someone, swap email addresses — and use them. While just calling to say “I love you” may make the heart sing, an email could make it soar.