Digitally Mediated Communication, Short Message Service, Text-Messaging, Digital Communication, Empathy


While digital mediation can facilitate some aspects of communication, such as increasing scope and access to communicative possibilities, those gains are overwhelmed by the challenges of digital mediation to support empathy.The ubiquity of our digital existence throughout much of the developed world has, in a relatively short time, had a profound impact on human communication. Time spent online and in front of a screen has increased exponentially during the last three decades. This has led to a great deal of interpersonal communication becoming digitally mediated. From luddites to web developers, users of digitally mediated communication (DMC) often find it necessary to participate in discourse that utilizes these technologies. In this project, I assess user experiences with DMC on interpersonal discourse to gain insight into user perceptions of empathic communication in the form of Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging. I employ survey and interviews protocols on a sampling of undergraduate students on one campus of a regional community college. While some think that DMC opens new spaces for social connections, others believe that DMC has a negative impact on our social relations by challenging empathetic connections between interlocutors. I hypothesize that empirical evidence will support this second view. Results of this investigation may be used to determine the conditions under which empathy is diminished in DMC and help us consider improved protocols for employing this ever-expanding mode of interpersonal communication. This study is unique in that it attempts to evaluate empathy, a concept that is challenging to define, describe, and measure. Hence, questions used in the survey paid attention to perceptions of empathy and survey takers' sentiments regarding the expression of empathy in text-messaging.

Completion Date




Committee Chair

Beever, Jonathan


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Arts and Humanities


Texts and Technology

Degree Program

Digital Humanities





Release Date

June 2024

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)