Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery


Social support, whether emotional, informational, or tangible, is an innate need and is important to our well-being and our personal relationships. While face-to-face communication has been considered the “gold standard” to relational maintenance, we are also using communication technology to maintain our personal relationships and mobilize our social support networks. Technological advances in communication channels have provided new avenues to social interaction and social support.

The purpose of this study was to explore the social support process across new communication technologies. Specifically, I examined how multiple modes of communication (including face-to-face) were used to seek and receive social support to/from different relational ties in the midst a life stressor. I also looked at what people did or said to prompt them to use certain communication channels and why. Further, I investigated the types of supportive messages that were being communicated. And, finally, I examined whether those supportive messages were perceived as helpful, or not.

Through an in-depth analysis of 23 interviews, results suggested that new communication technologies helped: tell the story, orchestrate tangible support, provide direct and instant access to others, show evidence of quantity, and offer coping outlets. Delving deeper, the results from this project revealed that participants used specific communication channels for specific reasons when in need of support. Last, the results indicated that all three types of social support messages (i.e., emotional, informational, and tangible) were provided to participants via a variety of new communication technologies and relational ties. Moreover, some of the support messages were perceived as helpful, and some were not.


Ph.D. dissertation completed in 2013 for the University of Kansas. Dissertation committee: Adrianne Kunkel (Chairperson), Nancy Baym, Tracy Russo, Debra Ford, and Ann Brill.