Messenger chats bring people closer than video chat, study finds


A recent study has found that messaging other people is more likely to make you feel more connected to the outside world than video chat. — dpa

In case you haven’t noticed by now, Zoom is hard.

When people aren’t talking over each other, they leave long silences or forget to mute their microphones. At this point of the pandemic, we’re all past having our fill of video conferences.

Researchers agree, it would seem, and say we’re often better off using messenger apps for staying in touch with family and friends.

Video chat might bring you visually closer to someone, but in practice, most people feel more connected to the outside world during the pandemic through messenger apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal, according to a new study in the International Journal of Psychology.

”We found out that sending short messages via messenger - be it text or video - helps to stay in touch better than with video conferences, ” says lead researcher Nicole Kraemer, a professor of social psychology at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

”A text message sent quickly like that can be more likely to make you feel that ‘other people are close to me’, ” she says.

Above all, especially in times of lockdown, reduced travel and social distancing, it’s important to have the feeling that “other people are there who are connected to me, ” Kraemer says.

To have this psychological reassurance, it’s enough to hear something from someone throughout the day. A video chat might also provide the same benefit, but often does not offer more psychological advantages, according to the researchers.

In fact, video calls can bring more stress as they’re more complicated to plan and host, which ultimately makes them rarer. In contrast, there’s less hassle and obligations when you’re sending some friends a voice message or fun link on WhatsApp.

Moreover, the psychologists said their research showed that video calls did not necessarily make it easier for people to stay home and comply with social distancing rules.

”The data showed that text-based communication indirectly fostered willingness to adhere to physical distancing through the pathway of increased feelings of social support and life satisfaction, ” the authors write.

This might be because an audiovisual connection to other people only enhances our longing to go out and meet up with them, the social psychologist says. “All the messages that come via messenger are obviously more helpful in getting people to stick to the rules.” – dpa

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