Connecting and Experience Sharing The increased social connection reported in the questionnaire results was echoed strongly in the round-table discussion comments: “We definitely connected in ways we hadn’t before”; “group Slam was really easy to show your friends what you were doing”; “the easy access to sending a message to an entire group definitely enhanced my ability to communicate, made it feel like we were bonding more I guess.”
There were numerous comments on the role of experience sharing. For example, one person sent a message to the whole study group saying, “Yay! I got my apartment” when her application to rent a new apartment was accepted. In terms of receiving messages, one participant remarked, “I loved when I got pictures of my friends doing things throughout their day”, and in terms of sharing one’s own experiences, another reported, “I like being able to let people know what I am doing all the time”. Sometimes, the seemingly mundane was in fact quite meaningful. Several groups reported that even though they were quite close, seeing pictures of one another’s respective places of work opened a window onto a part of their lives they had not seen before.
As shown in the message type breakdown (Figure 7), intimate messages, while constituting a small percent of the total messages, were sent out to groups. The “goodnight” message was sent around several times, as when one person sent a picture of his alarm clock reading 12:30 along with a good night message. Good morning messages were also seen, as were messages of general affection such as “I miss u guys!”, and emotional connection, like, “I’m totally in need of some praise and encouragement!”, and, “it's great to feel so CONNECTED guys! love you mean it. G'night!”
Although not common, there were instances of using the system for more functional sharing, such as sending URLs or phone numbers, or when one person sent out a picture of some shoes she saw on eBay: “who+has a size 8 foot? these heels are TO DIE FOR- they're covered in SILVER SEQUINS. EBAY. get it.” In the wrap-up discussions, participants reported that they used Slam for these messages because they wanted group members to receive the messages immediately, rather than the next time they checked email.
Impact of Group Membership Like any social group, these mobile device-based groups have memberships with both positive and negative implications. Some of these implications are exacerbated because of the ubiquity and visibility of the mobile device. In several cases, for example, participants noticed a group that they did not belong to when they were co-located with another participant who had their phone out. “Why aren’t I in the Paris Hilton group!” exclaimed one participant, whose invitation to join the “Paris Hilton” group had been overlooked. In another example, one woman in the third group was the boyfriend of one of the men, and consequently had frequent access to his mobile phone. Because she could read the messages