The increase in messages sent indicates that participants were either motivated to send more messages by the wider audience or replied to messages of interest they simply would not have seen if messaging one-to-one. In either case, this increase generated a corresponding increase in most of the social relationship metrics collected in the questionnaires: participants felt more connected, more like a member of a community, and that they shared more of their experiences. Participants also reported having more fun. The increase in system usage and corresponding increase in social relationship metrics indicates that, as a system supporting leisure, group-based mobile messaging played a larger role in participants’ social lives than did one-to-one messaging. Revisiting the impact on social psychological factors, participants did report greater cohesiveness in the group messaging condition. It was predicted that this would generate greater emotional connection, which was validated by the reported increase in connectedness among group members.
These increases suggest corresponding increases in additional social psychological aspects of group dynamics, such as being more likely to participate in and contribute to group activities (Brawley et al., 1988), the ability to work together toward group goals (Sherif, 1966), and the satisfaction with belonging to the group that derives from increased shared social identity (O’Reilly and Caldwell, 1985). Although such findings are not directly assessable given the current data, there were indications to draw on. For example, the groups were inclusive and cohesive regarding group activities and goals. In one group, seven members covertly organized gift buying and party organizing for the eighth person’s birthday, with everybody contributing ideas and each person taking on a different role, such as stopping off to pick up a gift on their way home from work. More systematic study of the effect of group messaging on these additional social psychological aspects of group dynamics poses an interesting avenue for future efforts.
The social benefits appear to be due to the sheer increase in volume of messages sent in the group messaging condition, as the types of messages sent when messaging group-wide were remarkably similar to those sent one-to-one. Had joking messages be included in the chatting category, the two messaging modes would have broken down nearly identically. Nonetheless, in both the group and one-to-one communication modalities, the message content reflected the intersection of the leisure and social sides of mobile messaging: simply chatting was the most common activity, but participants also joked, shared experiences, and coordinated face-to-face activities. A more detailed look at how participants used group-based messaging revealed that it quickly became integrated into their lives in terms of time and place. Although evening was a popular time to message, early morning, late night, and daytime work hours were far from infrequent message times, with message content clearly relevant to the time of day, such as the good night message or the photos of workplaces. The messages also reflected the places that make up people’s lives, with text and photo messages covering places such as home,