The Big Meaning of Small Messages: The Use of WhatsApp in Intergenerational Family Communication

  • Sakari TaipaleEmail author
  • Manuela Farinosi
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10926)


This study explores the use of WhatsApp instant messenger in extended families in two countries, Finland and Italy, that represent different family and communication cultures. Qualitative research material was collected in 2014/2015 from families consisting of three or more generations and living either in the same or different households. A directed approach to qualitative content analysis was applied in the analysis of the research data. The results of the study show that WhatsApp is considered to facilitate family interaction across generations. The success of WhatsApp in the family context accounts for two main factors: first, for the possibility to reach the whole family at once; and secondly, for its capacity to promote “phatic communion” via small messages. While utilizing various communicative modalities of WhatsApp (text and voice messages, photos, videos), family members take into account others’ preferences and communication skills.


Extended family WhatsApp Instant messaging One-to-many communication Phatic communion Reach Intergenerational relations 



This research has received project funding from the Academy of Finland (no. 265986), and it was carried out within the Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care (CoE AgeCare).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences and PhilosophyUniversity of JyvaskylaJyvaskylaFinland
  2. 2.Department of Humanities and Cultural HeritageUniversity of UdineUdineItaly

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