Why Email May Actually Be A Great Way To Say 'I Love You'

Love in the time of Gmail.

04/09/2015 3:21 AM AEST | Updated 04/09/2015 3:21 AM AEST
Credit: Igor Stevanovic/Getty Images

Research findings suggest emailing is not having a negative effect on intimate communication.

As a mode of communication, email gets a pretty bad rap. 

It's a common belief among psychologists and the general public that the further a form of communication gets from face-to-face interaction, the less effective and intimate it becomes. 

"Excessive smartphone use drives us away from each other, and we only choose to communicate impersonally and for superficial matters," one blogger lamented about texting and emailing.

But these concerns may be overblown. New research suggests that people actually use more expressive emotional language when communicating with their loved ones via email compared to speaking with them on the phone. 

The Indiana University study found that when people are unable to pick up on subtle cues like tone of voice and body language to convey emotion, they tend to compensate by using more positive emotional content and thoughtful language. 

"People are more explicit about romance when they write an email than when they leave a voicemail," Dr. Alan Dennis, a business professor at the university and one of the study's authors, told The Huffington Post in an email.

For the study, researchers analyzed the language used by 72 college students in emails and voicemails in which they were expressing affection towards their significant others. 

The findings showed that when writing emails, the students used more emphatic language than they did in the voicemails. Crafting an email gives people the opportunity to think more deeply about a message and to be more conscious of the way they deliver it, the researchers explained.  

Here's an example of an email used in the study: 

Subject: Hey beautiful

Hey <recipient>

How are you today beautiful? Miss me? I miss you a lot. I hope to see you soon :) 

I am looking forwards to seeing your beautiful face :) . I hope you haven't forgotten me so soon.

I love you a lot <recipient>. Who knows why one loves another  I just know that you are the one for me. 

Take care beautiful  sleep well and sweetest of dreams my love. 

Love always and forever


 And a voicemail:  

Hey babe.  What's going on?  I miss you a lot right now. I hope that I see you later. I know we have dinner plans but who knows you said you could be busy with something but I'll definitely still come over if you are and help you. Miss and love you. Bye.


"Email lets you take time to think before you communicate," Dennis said, adding that the medium allows you to "edit your comments so you can carefully craft the exact message you want to send."

Can this be explained by the fact that college students have grown up using email and text messages to communicate? Not necessarily. 

"Perhaps we all adapt to some extent to the shortcomings of different media, and with experience learn how to best use them to communicate," Dennis said.

The findings, which will be published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior in January 2016, suggest that using technology to communicate doesn't necessarily hasten the downfall of interpersonal connections and intimacy. 

"There's a lot of theory that says email and other text communications don't really work very well," Dennis said in a written statement. "We should probably go back and reconsider a lot of the stereotypical assumptions that we hold about email and text messaging that may not hold true."

Could this be the final nail in voicemail's coffin? Hopefully. Nobody really likes voicemail, anyway.

More On This Topic