International Journal of Internet Science

A peer reviewed open access journal for empirical findings, methodology, and theory of social and behavioral science concerning the Internet and its implications for individuals, social groups, organizations, and society.

Volume 7, Issue 1 (2012)

Sharing Only Parts of Me: Selective Categorical Self-Disclosure Across Internet Arenas
Alison Attrill1
1De Montfort University, UK

Abstract: Research that has considered how individuals share their personal information in online compared to offline disclosures has often demonstrated heightened and accelerated disclosures in online interactions.  Recent work has shown that this acceleration may be more likely to occur for the sharing of superficial self-information in initial general online interactions.  This work was extended to explore the reported content of online disclosures in four different Internet arenas, social networking, instant messaging, general communication and online shopping. Using a self-disclosure scale amongst a sample of students to measure the revelation of information pertaining to individuals’ beliefs, relationships, personal matters, interests and intimate feelings, the current findings showed that self-disclosure could be more categorical and goal-directed than can be accounted for by existing cue-impoverished and text-based explanations of online self-disclosure. Participants reported self-disclosing significantly less on online shopping sites than in the three communications type arenas.  A consistent pattern of significant differences in the sharing of superficial (interests, relationships & personal matters) and more personal or intimate (intimate feelings & beliefs) information in instant messaging, social networking and general communication, along with an absence of significant intra-categorical disclosures is in line with hyperpersonal computer-mediated communication theory in that people selectively choose which information to self-disclose online, a proposal further supported by a significant decrease from relationship to personal matters information in instant messaging.  These findings imply that categorical disclosures could be mapped onto the social cognitive self-memory-system model of autobiographical memory in line with the social penetration theory of self-disclosure.  The findings along with non-significant differences in reported levels of overall self-disclosure across the Internet arenas are theoretically and empirically discussed, giving particular emphasis to considering future directions for research aiming to elucidate and explain the social cognitive processes associated with self-disclosure online.

Keywords: Online self-disclosure, categorical disclosure, social cognition, instant messaging, social networking, online shopping, self online

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