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Mobile Love in China: The Cultural Meaning and Social Implications of Mobile Communications in Romantic Relationships among Young Chinese Adults

DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2018.62004, PP. 38-54

Keywords: Qualitative Study, Mobile Communications, Romantic Relationship, Apparatgeist Theory, China

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Abstract:

The current study takes a qualitative approach to examining the unique use of mobile communications in romantic relationships among young Chinese adults, a research field few scholars have evinced interest in at this point in time (Lim & Soriano, 2016: p. 4). The overarching question “What is the ‘Chinese-ness’ of the mobile phone user culture of young romantic couples regarding perpetual contact, boundary maintenance, and the connectedness-autonomy tension?” was answered by 15 semi-structured individual interviews. The findings suggest that 1) WeChat messaging was the most prominent mobile media platform used by the respondents to stay in “perpetual contact”, i.e., defined as a continuous conversation through frequent short messages between individuals not physically in the same location (Katz & Aakhus, 2002: p. 2). The interviewees wished to protect their relationship a couple by not disclosing too much or by preventing others from prying too far into it. 3) Respondents resolved the tension between the needs to connect with each other and to remain independent individuals by adopting the former approach. Respondents frequently practiced perpetual contact, supporting the Apparatgeist theory, which views mobile phones as mystical devices that allow constant communication with unseen others, combined with the collective construction of meaning (Katz & Aakhus, 2002). This current study further discusses relevant theoretical and social implications.

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