I’ve spent the last couple of years focusing on online self-disclosure, learning about different parts of this problem. After reading many papers related to this topic, and running an initial large-scale survey of my own - still unpublished - I’ve come up with an idea of how to group the factors that motivate, drive and moderate this behavior. I’m arguing that all of these variables can be fit into three different buckets: personal, social and technological.
Since the beginnings of self-disclosure research, there are findings that support different types of personal or internal motivations and drivers for self-disclosure. Just to give a few examples, we can point at:
Catharsis (Jourard, 1964; Rosenfeld & Kendrick, 1984)
Loneliness (Leung, 2002)
Self-esteem (Joinson, 2004)
Impression Management (De Souza & Nick, 2004)
Physical Context (Stefanone, Jang & Claes, 2009)
There are also a series of external factors that influence our disclosure behavior which relate to our social context; the people we are having a conversation with. Again, some examples can be found in:
Reciprocity (Boyd, 2008; Joinson, 2001; Moon, 2000)
Intended Audience (Gibbs, Ellison & Heino, 2006; Stefanone & Jang, 2008)
Relationship Maintenance (Boyd, 2006; Stefanone & Jang, 2008; Krasnova et al., 2010)
Environment Norms (Boyd, 2008)
Cultural Norms (Diaz-Peralta, 2003)
Finally, there is a large body of evidence suggesting that when communication is mediated by computers we will find different patterns for self-discosure. Examples can be found in:
Relative Anonymity (Rheingold, 1993; Joinson, 2001b; Christopherson, 2006; Tanis & Postmes, 2007; Bargh, McKenna & Fitzimons, 2002, Mesch & Becker, 2010)
Social Response (Reeves & Nass, 1996; Moon, 2000)
Frequency of Use (Rau et al, 2008; Frye & Dornisch, 2010; Mesch & Becker, 2010, my study)
Tool Privacy (Krasnova et al., 2010; Stutzman, Capra & Thompson 2011)
Interface Design (Sagolla, 2009)
This idea is a starting point for later constructing a theoretical model. I’ve found on my reviews that previous research tend to focus on different dimensions of this problem, as I’m a big picture kind of person, I can’t help attempting to integrate all these ideas into a single model. This model clearly needs more refinement, the lists of factors presented here are by no means exhaustive nor particularly curated based on any criteria, they are just examples to represent my larger position and hopefully start a conversation with other people interested in this topic. I’m looking forward to hearing your reactions on this.
A more chatty and disorganized version of this can be found in the following post.