Sharing, Hiding, and Finding Ourselves on Facebook

National Communication AssociationFour papers presented at the National Communication Association 2010 annual conference dealt with the issues and motivations that impact information sharing on Facebook.

Exploring Privacy Management and Disclosure on Facebook
Camille A. Hall, Keturi D. Beatty, Bethany Petty, and Zuoming Wang (University of North Texas)
Hall discussed the effects of profile-owner’s gender and potential profile viewer on a Facebook user’s willingness to disclose private information. Participants were asked to identify the information they would hide on Facebook from various users: (your boss, a love interest, a total stranger, a peer, and a professor).

The basis for their research, Communication Privacy Management Theory (Petronio, 2007), contains five principles:

  1. We perceive ownership of private information.
  2. We perceive that we have the right to use our own private information as we see fit.
  3. We utilize “boundary rules” to define privacy.
  4. Others become shareholders in our private information when we reveal it.
  5. We may experience boundary turbulence may occur during privacy management.

Even though men and women reported similar willingness to disclose information, women chose to remove far more Facebook profile information for various audiences than did men. Interestingly, this contradicts past research suggesting that women tend to self-disclose more than men, suggesting that context matters for self-disclosure.

Facebook as a Toolkit: Motivations predicting future use
Andrew Smock, Nicole Ellison, D. Yvette Wohn (Michigan State University)
Rooted in the uses and gratifications theory, this presentation asks, what gratifications individuals seek from the various features of Facebook? Past research indicates that some of these reasons might include information seeking, passing time, and social comparison (Forreggei 2008, Johnson 2008, Papacharissi & Mendelsson, 2010, which proposed Facebook motives scales).

According the these researchers, even though the motivation to be entertained was related to overall Facebook use, different motivations guide Facebook use among the various components of Facebook. For example, use of status updates and comments related to the motive of expressive information sharing; use of chat and wall posts related to the motive of social interaction; and, interestingly, use of wall posts were related to professional advancement and passing-the-time.

Facebook and Social Capital
Two other presentations in this panel addressed Putnam’s social capital and the creation of social capital using Facebook. Namkee Park (University of Oklahoma), Seungyoon Lee (Purdue University); Jang Hyun Kim (University of Hawaii, Manoa) discussed a quantitative approach to assessing social capital among Facebook users whereas Jessica Vitak and Nicole Ellison (Michigan State University) employed a qualitative approach to studying Facebook use as tool for bridging and bonding in social capital. Vitak and Ellison suggest that social emotional support and information-seeking behavior is dependent upon the types of social capital present. One participant suggest that he would rather access information via trusted friends on Facebook rather than Google: “Surely somebody out of the 350 people would have an answer to something I needed, or know where to direct me to find it.”


  1. When reading this post all I could think about is all the discussions I have had in my Comm 101 class. On how much people do and don’t self-disclose on the internet. When making a Facebook page people tend to tell a lot about one self on their profile. With the statement that women tend to self- disclose more then men do is true. I my self don’t put a whole lot of my info on my Facebook page because I don’t know who is reading it.

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