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Bonding was defined as the momentary emotional experience of feeling connected to and affection for a friend.

Research comparing face-to-face and more distal forms of communication predates the rise of the Internet by several decades.

For strangers meeting for the first time, digital communication has been shown to enhance the intimacy and frequency of self-disclosure (Antheunis, Valkenburg, & Peter, 2007; Tidwell & Walther, 2002), and strangers meeting in text-based environments show higher affinity for one another than strangers meeting one another face-to-face (Antheunis et al., 2012, Bargh et al., 2002).These results seem at first to fly in the face of media richness theory (Daft & Lengel, 1986), which proposes that the number of cues and channels available for communication relates directly to the exchange of richer information, as well as social presence theory (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1986), which suggests that these “richer” media allow for greater warmth and affection.To examine bonding in close friendships, we turn to the work of Gonzaga and colleagues.In a series of studies, these researchers discovered that a cluster of four nonverbal cues—the Duchenne smile, affirmative head nods, leaning towards the conversation partner, and positive hand gesturing—relate reliably to feelings of affection towards a friend and commitment to close relationships (Gonzaga et al., 2001, 2006).Interlocutors furthermore may experience the online disinhibition effect (Suler, 2004), whereby the nature of text-based communication itself contributes to feelings of intimacy and connectedness.

The above evidence from the media studies literature might suggest that when young adults engage in digital communication, they can, with time, achieve the same level of connectedness as in-person communication.

We summarize these feelings and commitment to the relationship with the term “bonding,” a central concept in our study. (2001), we term the nonverbal cues associated with bonding affiliation cues.

Given the evidence suggesting that this particular cluster of cues is a distinct indicator of feelings of affection in face-to-face interaction, we examined how affiliation cues change in mediated contexts.

Little is yet known about the emotional experience of bonding with an existing friend as it occurs online.

Given the frequency with which adolescents and young adults use digital tools to communicate with friends, we hope to shed light on their ability to feel emotionally bonded when using various tools.

One way to address potential differences in digital and in-person communication is to compare them directly.