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Role of Text Messaging and Conflict Situations Among Young Adults

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 5368 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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This study aimed to explore the impact of the digital ,text-based,communication and conflict resolution among young adults. What styles do young adults use to approach conflict. Are these styles going to help propel the issue forward and move the relationship in a positive manner .

Before the advancement of technology , communicating and resolving conflict with others, be it organizational ; romantic and/or personal , was mostly performed face to face, through written correspondence(letters), or by talking on landline telephones(home phone).

The author found it interesting the lack of research on the management of conflict using text based communication among young adult in peer relationships.


Interpersonal Relationships are essential for the development of human kind. People are always communicating, even in the midst of silence there is a message being sent and a message being received . According to a survey conducted by Drussel (2012) researcher concluded 2,277 American adults between the ages of 18-24 years old  send or received an average of 109.5 text messages daily that is more than 3,200 hundred text per month . Text based communication consist of  many platforms. Texting/iMessage , Emails and Social sites  instant messaging applications such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter etc. Facebook along with the social sites mentioned above,  has created an Instant messaging platform allowing individuals to privately communicate.

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Text messaging (Short Message Service or SMS) is a common form of communication among Americans. According to Kelly (2014) adolescents and young adults prefer texting  over any other form of communication Scholars have conducted studies on its use, particularly as a means to understanding the development ,maintaining  and commencement  of  interpersonal relationships.With digital communication advancing, and SMS capabilities enhancing it is likely the conflict which is pronounced in text-based communication is of the lack of face to face components.

The capabilities of SMS have enhanced two-way communication, however; it cannot fully substitute the absence of an individual.With these ideas in mind, it is interesting to investigate how young adults manage conflict in interpersonal communication using text based platforms to communicate . Therefore my research will explore the use of texting for the management of interpersonal conflict between young adults


Conflict is everywhere; it is an inevitable part of life . It presents itself in  every relationship. It is important in the development and maintenance of  a relationship.In some cases a conflict can have negative consequences, which could possibly lead to discontinuation of the relationship.  Other situational conflicts can be an opportunity  to strengthen a relationship, and to grow as an individual. There has been extensive research done on Conflict. Research has included different forms of conflict such as organizational conflict, family dynamic conflict , small group conflict , task related conflict , intrapersonal relationship conflict and  interpersonal relationships conflict (Witteman, 1992). For the purpose of this paper the author will explore how young adults use texting to manage interpersonal conflict.

Conflict can be defined in many different ways. The definition of conflict is altered or governed by the context in which the conflict arises. The leading variable for conflicts  are the individuals amidst the strife, the environment , and the actual reason for the argument .

 According to Wall and Callister (1995) conflict is when and issue  arises when a party or an individual(s) perceives its interests or feelings are being neglected , oppressed , misinterpreted , or opposed, and are negatively affected by another party or individual . Other scholars have defined conflict differently . Toomey (1994), conceptualizes conflict as perceived and/or actual disagreements of values,beliefs , norms, expectations, processes, or outcomes between two or more parties over substantive and/or relational issues. The word “perceives” is located in both definitions, for the word “perceives “ is essentially important to the definitions above. Without the  perception , or mis-perception , by at least one part conflict would not form . This research concentrates on interpersonal relationships and the management of conflict using digital texted based communication.

To deal with conflict one must learn how to manage conflict in many different contexts or environments .  There are several conflict styles . A conflict style refers to patterns of responses to issues in different interactive situations (Toomey, Oetzel, & Jung, 2001).

According to Toomey et al. (2001) conflict is defined into five different styles: integrating,compromising dominating obliging and avoiding. The styles are divided into two dimensions. One dimension is concern for self ,while the other dimension of conflict focuses on the concern for others. When an individual concern is for self , his/ her main goal is to satisfy his/ her needs ,whereas concern for others means trying to incorporate what is beneficial for the group or people amidst the conflict.

Integrating style involves more cooperating, thus it has a high level of concern for self and others. Compromising style is fairly moderate on both spectrum of concern, self and others. The dominating style focuses on self ,thus a low concern for others. Obliging style of conflict focuses on the other party, thus it has a low concern for self . Lastly avoidance is no concern for self or others, and is not effective in conflict because it does not address the situation.

When discussing conflict , gender should  be examined , for men and women have different styles of communication .Tannen (1990) had conducted a study using students as participants. Her study focused on younger children.  Tannen videotaped conversations among students in a variety of ages and grade levels. Her analysis was as followed: girls were more likely to avoid conflict in their interpersonal relationships than boys. She then began to suggest that the avoidance style of conflict would follow girls into adulthood.

A study done in 1983 , helped increase the credibility of  Tannen’s findings . The study was conducted by Rahim; it included 1,219 participants. The participants varied in age, education, and racial backgrounds. He founded women style of conflict were generally avoiding, compromising , and integrating. His study was done before Tannen’s; however, it is aligned with her findings in regards to girls consistently using avoidance as a style of conflict management into adulthood.  He continued to say males were more obliging then women. The experiment found that obliging was the conflict style used often with bosses or supervisors. Compromising and integrating styles of conflict management were predominantly used when coOne particiant stated” when your right in and argument or conflict, texting allows you to show the other part he/she wrongs. There is no undo-ing a text message. In addition it helps proves you are right.nflicts arise among subordinates and/or peers

The results in a study done by  Barsky (2002) differed from Rahim’s findings . The research was done in a University setting and it included students. His research concluded hierarchy was a main cause for conflict . As a result the main style of conflict exemplified in his study was avoidance. An example of conflict avoidance in the research was students avoided expressing themselves to the professor.  The students feared any form of conflict because the students did not want his/her grade to be negatively affected.  The students suggested any implications of a different  opinion than the teacher would cause friction , no matter the context which was delivered

The acknowledgement of the conflict would also influence the style of how one decides to communicate and address the conflicting situation, according to Sillars (1980) . Sillars  study  involved college students in a roommate relationship setting  . His finding concluded conflict solving  can be divided into three main strategies which differs from Toomey et al (2001)  ideologies . The three main conflict strategies were integrative , distributive, and passive indirect. Integrative style explicitly discussed  the issue, and found a creative way to resolve the issue. It created a positive environment and a win-win solution. The distributive strategy involved directly addressing the issue but instead of creating a resolution which will bring about a win -win outcome. It had more of a negative connotation, sometimes it could be compromising; however, when one compromised and individual had to “give-up on some aspects of his/her desires. The distribute style of communication created a lose -lose situation or a win- lose situation. The passive and indirect strategy was to avoid the issue. Some examples of passive or indirect strategies included, but  were not limited too, avoiding the issue, the person or letting the issue solve itself. The study also found each form of conflict was used in conflict management among college doormates .  Interpretive strategies were implemented when conflict was caused by self. However when the conflict was caused by another person , the roommate, distributive strategies were implicated and practice as a mean to resolve the conflict. He also found that when students used a more interpretive approach to the dissolvement of conflict, a great satisfaction was seen among all parties involved in the issue.which lead to a greater experience among roommates. Continuing majority of the participants in Sillars study found avoidance to be unhelpful and had a negative parallel with dorms and roommates Sillars study is beneficial because it talk about one aspect of a young adults life, however not all young adults attend college thus it does have its limitation. The study also lacks the medium of digital communication(texting). Nevertheless still serves a purpose for it discussed the baseline of the authors study which is the management of conflict between young adults

Platform of communication

Conflict is crucial to the development, maintenance and resolvement of interpersonal relationship. The medium or platform use is paramount to the style and strategies used in conflict resolution.

The purpose of this study is to explore the use of texting for the management of conflict in interpersonal between young adult. It’s no surprise technology plays a part in interpersonal relationship especially among young adults.

This composition combines many forms of text-based communication  A phenomenal medium of digital communication is texting. A medium which has become the predominant way people communicate .Text messaging is a fast, easy,and convenient. It allows an individual to multitask, yet still converse with others ( Grinter & Eldrige, 2001).Texting, has increase all over the world. Social networking sites are another form of digital communication, which allowed private text-based communication. According to Kelly et. al. (2013)young adults use social media throughout much of the day.The study further suggest that adolescents use social sites to maintain interpersonal relationships with his/her peers or family that live far. Instant Messaging is a text based communication tool that has become outdated in the context of which it was first created The real- time messaging system  was once confined to computer- to -computer interactions. With cellular device gaining more computer like capabilities, IM(ing) is very similar to SMS. The difference being , IM(ing ) uses an external application. Emails are also a platform for text based .communication. It’s a platform where conflict management can operate. However emails are generally used in organizational conflict . For most email usage among young adult , are minimal and only used for professional reasons . This composition will use digital texted  to define the tools use to communicate . And example of digital communication is: cell phones; tablets, computer ..ect. The mediums of communication mention previously have the capabilities to allow individual(s) to communicate in a private dyadic conversation. Text based communication is used  as a forum to directly  approach to conflict management. Texted based communication gives birth to the opportunity of saving face. In addition it gives an individual time to conjure up what message he/she want to send and articulate how he/she want the message to be interpreted. The lack of certain social cue can still breath about accidental conflict or slow down solving relational conflict.

Campbell (2005) implied there are an abundance of young adults and teenagers  who choose to text opposed  to talk about awkward or emotionally charged situations that could result in conflict or miscommunication . The suggestion above makes it easy to assume that texted base technology has drawbacks For example, individuals may exercise his/her ability to use his/ her  mobile phone , computer , tablet ect to send or pass on abrasive and overly aggressive messages , some may even use text-based communication to simply bully others. Aforementioned individuals may also use the tool (mobile devices ) to ignore other by refusing to respond to another individual attempt to address the conflict , also known as avoidance.

Using text based communication to resolve conflict has its  benefits. Some benefits are , the ability to be in emotionally comforting environment. By removing the physical presence of the other party , it helps balance the emotional stability. Emotional stability , or face saving could be difficult when both party are in each other’s presence. There greater flexibility is term of responding to a message. When responding face to -to-face the feedback is more instant. One has more time to think about his/her response. According to Ishii,2010 one main reason adolescents , young adults , and teenagers prefer texting is the individual can interact with other at his/ her

This study is to explore private text based communication ,convence. Opposed to feeling pressured to respond to an emotional charged conflict , which is brought about when talking face to face with others

may not respond to the conflict. It is important to understand that text messaging plays a role in roommate

The ability to communicate effectively , is an important life skill . It will help with maneuvering through conflict. According to Smith adolescents and young adults prefer texting  over any other form of communication (2015). Adolescent use texted based communication to develop, maintain, and resolve relationships

A study conducted by( Declerk & Holtzman , 2018)  further concludes that individual may be less reluctant to open up face to face  however ; the transmission of conflict reported slightly higher levels of hurt than those who was approached physically to resolve any form of indiscretions, The study concluded. There are theories which  studied and invented which studies that absence of physical presence communication,can cause a conflict to escalate,  these theories are known as Cue-filter -outs . (Culnan & Markus;1987)

The inventors of Cue-filter- out theories essential position is nonverbal cues assist a number of functions, what his/her individual personalities are, how he/she  voice his /her opinion or feelings, and what his/her statements or declarations mean.  Researcher of cue-filter out theories further concluded As nonverbal cues have a unique capacity to accomplish these functions, the general argument of these approaches is that CMC, without nonverbal cues, is underdeveloped and unqualified to supporting these communicative functions


Media richness theory  (also referred to as Media information theory) and Social Presence theory . Both theories suggest inflection of voice, the volume of the individuals tone; body language, proxemics are reduces via texted based communication . The lack of certain cues reduce the quality of the conversation. This give opportunity for misunderstanding. The misunderstanding could cause distress on a conversation or topic, building more tension which could lead to the ending of a relationship or lead to a bigger conflict(s) . Media richness theory proposes that communication performance will be improve once and individual(s) are matched to a medium’s which will allow him or her to convey information in a way that articulates the message accurately. The sender information is more Richer in texted based communication with individual(s) with a greater lexicon ; individual(s) with the ability to convey emotions through text, individual (s) who have  a greater multiplicity of face to face cues; individual(s) with greater ability to personalize and individual(s) who are more rapid with a response. ( Dennis&

Using Cue filter out theories are plausible frameworks to analyze data collect for this research because , this research is to examine the use of text-based  communication for the management of interpersonal conflict between young adults. Thus the face to face structure of communication in this composition will not be talked about in depth

Another highly respect theory ,as it related to technology and its usage is adaptive structuration theory . This theory states , as new technologies are developed there is an interaction among the technology and social environment by which it is used .. This theory states the more one is versed in the form of technology the better experience the individual will have, thus the more inclined and individual is when using such components the better the message will be delivered and received.


In order to answer the research question , the author administered a survey

. The survey gathered qualitative data.The survey was a questionnaire consisting of open ended questions , and one question of choice. In addition the survey asked about the genders of the respondents. The intent of the questions was to explore the attitudes , practices and thoughts on interpersonal relationship ,and the strategies used in relational conflict among text based communication .

The survey was designed by the author conducted usings a dual system. One system was Qualtric a program used to collect and analyze different forms of data. The other method was handing out the surveys to individual(s). The author found it was easier to hand out paper.


A total  of 27 participants were surveyed. All respondents were members of  Kean University student body. Students were asked  question  regarding his/hers thoughts on texted based communications when managing conflict. The participant who received a paper copy of the survey =were common areas of Kean University : the library , study area,the computer lab and dining areas. If there was a group of students sitting together the researcher would only ask one person in the group to participate in the study.The author wanted a variety of answers, and feared a group would share thought and thus create a groupthink mentality. As a result of group thinking the answers would lack authenticity and cause limitations in the research. The composer Results

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Throughout the research a pattern was seen among some questions.my reseach will be based on a thematic anyalsis. The respondent unanimously answered, yes,  to using texted based application to communicate daily heavily throughout the day. In addition all participants actively engage in conflict using text-based applications,at some point in his/her life .The active engagement of texting was crucial to the study.Text-based communication is paramount to the research because it is a variable being study among young adult in the midst of conflict.The participant in depth engagement of texting gave his/her response more credibility. In addition , engaging in conflict using text based communication was the only criteria for this research study . As previously mention ,texting is a phenomenon that has taken away from face to face communication. It is the predominant form of communication  among adolescent , and teenagers.

There are several themes that plagued the finding of this research.

One theme was  time. Several respondents believed time was a component in text based communication.The ability to respond was seen as both a benefit and drawback. One respondent stated “ Not having to respond is convenient,it allows me time to think about what I want to say. Sometimes if I wait my response will differ and it may even be less aggressive”. Eleven respondents believe the lack of instant response added a negative component to the conflict. The respondants believed time heightened ambihuity in texted based communication. “When emotions are intensified and you are vulnerable , it is rude to stop the instant reponses”. The quote above was from a responant who answered one of the drawback of texting.  mid conversation”. When using text based communication , on can take there time to complete his/her thoughts. Ten  respondent have insinuated , when conflict is discussed or talked about face to face it is difficult to finish a thought before the other party(s) to interpret. Seven respondent believe the time between interaction causes less confusion because each individual’s thought are articulated in its integrity

 Text based communication allows breaths between responses, and its interpretation of the pause is significant and how conflict unraveled. Therefore; how the student body interprets those interruptions are important to the study at large.

Proof was continuously mention among the respondents , having the ability to see , the verbage helped when discussing the conflict. One respondent stated “ having proof of the conversation allows me to go back, to try an understand why the issue or issues has occurred. Five respondents used proof to prove he/she was not wrong. Proof was used as ammunition to further his/her point.One particiant stated” when your right in and argument or conflict, texting allows you to show the other part he/she wrongs. There is no undo-ing a text message. In addition it helps proves you are right.

 Understanding the reason for proff helped the author understand the reason the medium of text was important to the respondance and the purpoe of this study is to anaylze the medium , which is private tet based communication .

Alothough respondants used visual text as a mean to prove his her case , it was also used as a means of understanding , collaborting was a syle used prominently for visual text. The parties used a collaboration of  his/ her interpretation to identify the conflict . By collaborating to find where the conflict formed , the resolution was smoother. Individuals also belived compromising was a quick was to resolve issue using texted base commuication. One partpant state “When I am texting I am generally doing several things.so.. Texting allows me t come to a compromise that will remove conflict from the text tread . The visual helped provide proof of what was said , thus no party could ommitt or alter what he or she said. The author found out that respondents use GIFS to extress themselves. The respondents indicated that GIFS were used to lighten the mood , to move the conflict along . four respondents suggest GIF were light hearted and funny; however; using and emoji insinuated more anger.

My last major fininding among research was equivallancy , meaning is the relationship beneficial. There seem to be level of conflict through out the research. The longer the friendship the less important the medium was. One participated stated “ If i seruously know the person the medium dosent play a major role because I can her him/her voice through the phone. Two participatants stated if the friendship is not benificial than I may just avoide the person. I may not even consider the situation and issue.           

Discussion .

The author initially believed  communication was a preference of the sender. Over the course of the research the receiver was found to be just as important in medium of choice when discussing conflict. The receiver is an important variable because the interpretation of  a situation is a deciding factor on the severity of the situation. It was been concluded that the severity of the situation , justifies if it a conflict. Interpretation is a word that could be interchanged with perceived . Both Toomey(1994) and Wall et al. ( 1995) used the word “perceives”  in the definition of conflict. Both studies concluded without perception or interpretation , by at least one party, conflict would not exist.

The results found in this research study was similar to those found in previous research, the lack of physical presence was a variable which complicated conflict . Cue filter out theories such as Social Presence theory and Media Richness theory was the foundation for this research. The absence of tone, facial expressions , and energy ameliorated the demeanor of the conflict

Media Richness was applied , more in this study , those who understood different features among the texted based communication applications were able to convey his/he stand point

Social Exchange theory was illustrated among the research for participant had to believe the relationship was important, Only if the relationship was important was the conflict considered conflict .

After the finding of this research one understand conflict is essential , it is paramount for the maintaining of relationships; however, the lack of friendship conflict should be explored in more depth.


  One limitation of my study is that I analyzed a small group of the student population. The participants age was not identified thus, it the research could not show if maturity was a variable in the illustration of how conflict is solved using texted based communication. It would be interesting to further th study by gathering more respondents and have more variety among genders. Rahim  (1984) study revealed that men and women differ in which communication conflict strategies. The respondents were majority women and lacked gender variety If the study conducted had more male students the research may have differed. For many studies done implied males and females form of conflict management differs

Another limitation essential to the study. The data was collected using a convenient group of people , and the research lacks a large multiplicity thus it cannot be generalized to the greater population. In addition participant was randomly select ,but simulated the participants were also self-selected which to some may bring forth biases.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of text messaging and conflict situations among young adults. For that reason a review of literature was done on conflict ,digital communication ,conflict strategies and interpersonal relationships.The research explored how Young adults use texting to manage relational/interpersonal conflict. The The quantitative analysis of data revealed several teams first time was important. The breaths between response could either elevate or disseminate the conflicts that arise between young adults. Another team which played the research was proof however proof could be broken down into two years why do use was for collaborating a cop of Isaac tried to understand the view of the other parties will party. The other uses of proof was a defense mechanism; therefore, the style of conflict used was aggression or avoidance.

Leslie the studies found that texting is a medium OK to use if the situation a conflict is not life altering or life ending.

Despite the enhancements made through technology Digital text based communication could not take place a face-to-face communication.

The purpose of this research is to explore how young adults use texting to manage relational/interpersonal conflict

  1. Gender:  Male Female Other
  1. How often do you use texting (e.g. SMS or instant-messaging apps and functionalities) to manage interpersonal conflict? Explain
  2. Does the nature or  severity of an issue determine which communication medium (e.g., face to face, phone, texting, etc.) you use to manage or resolve interpersonal conflict? Explain
  3. Are there instances or scenarios in which texting is a preferred  means of managing interpersonal conflict? Explain
  4. Are there instances or scenarios in which texting is not an appropriate means of managing interpersonal conflict? Explain
  5. What are the benefits of texting for managing and resolving interpersonal conflict?
  6. What are the drawbacks of texting for managing and resolving interpersonal conflict?
  7. How does addressing interpersonal conflict through text messaging differ from managing it in person? In what ways are they similar?
  8. How do you use texting to manage the progression of, and the back-and-forth in, an argument? Can you identify specific strategies?
  9. How do you use the different features of texting (e.g., textual nature,, emojis, ability to respond at your own pace, ability to attach pictures and videos, etc.) to express yourself when managing interpersonal conflict?



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