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Interpersonal Life Online
Interpersonal life online
Nancy K. Baym

In concluding her 1984 analysis of experimental research on computer-mediated communication, linguist Naomi Baron wrote that ‘computer mediated communication – at least as currently used – is ill suited for such “social” uses of language’ (1984: 136). Fourteen years later, in a move indicative of the shift in this line of research, she argued that ‘e-mail is, in many respects, an ideal tool for building or maintaining social relationships’ (1998: 157). Although computer-mediated communication was not invented with interpersonal interaction in mind, the rise of the Internet has clarified that this technology is fundamentally social (Parks and Roberts, 1998; Sproull and Faraj, 1997). E-mail, used primarily for person-to-person contact, is the Internet's ‘killer app’ and the best ...

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