University of Maryland

The quality of online social relationships

Cummings, J. N., Butler, B., & Kraut, R. (2002). The quality of online social relationships. Communications of the ACM45(7), 103-108.


People are heavily using the Internet for interpersonal communication. Yet claims about
the impact of the Internet on social relationships are controversial. The research
summarized in this article compares the quality of online and offline social interaction
and relationships. The studies compare bankers’ and college students’ evaluations of
online and offline communication, the quality of social relationships sustained online
versus offline among a sample of new Internet users, and the quality of social interaction
in listservs, a type of online group. All of these studies suggest that computer-mediated
communication, and especially electronic mail, is less valuable for building and
sustaining close social relationships than other means, such as face-to-face contact and
telephone conversations. The implications of these findings depend, however, on
whether the interaction online adds to or substitutes for offline interaction and