When Online Meets Offline: An Expectancy Violations Theory Perspective on Modality Switching

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The present study examines the occurrence and timing of modality switching (MS) from the perspective of expectancy violations theory. The results indicate that, relative to continuing to interact through computer-mediated communication, participants rated the social information (partner behavior and physical appearance/attractiveness) acquired by MS as an expectancy violation, although their evaluations varied as a function of the timing of the switch. Participants evaluated the social information more positively and uncertainty-reducing following short-term online associations but more negatively and uncertainty-provoking following long-term ones compared to remaining online. Moreover, social information acquired through MS, irrespective of the timing, was rated as more relationally important. Implications and limitations of the results as well as directions for future research are discussed.

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Journal of Communication, v. 58, issue 1, p. 20-39