Self-disclosure on Facebook: “Self” and “Others” from social penetration perspective

Primary Author: Ka Lai Lee

Faculty Sponsor: Porismita Borah


Primary College/Unit: Edward R. Murrow College of Communication

Category: Physical and Social Sciences

Campus: Pullman



Principal topic

Previous studies found that online self-disclosure has various offline implications such as friendship development and subjective well-being. Thus, it is imperative to understand the underlying mechanism of online self-disclosure. As such, the current study examined the simultaneous influences of “self” (i.e., personal involvement with the information to be posted) and “others” (i.e., audience diversity in the network) in self-disclosure on Facebook.



Based on social penetration theory, we conducted a 2 (high versus low personal involvement) x 2 (high versus low audience diversity) factorial design experiment with different hypothetical scenarios. A total of 241 young adults participated and they were asked to imagine being the main roles who were deciding whether or not to share the hypothetical stories on Facebook. After the participants read the scenarios, they were instructed to write down whatever thoughts that came across their minds and fill in items which assessed their considerations, Facebook usage and demographics.



The results suggested that information that is highly involved with oneself would trigger extended thought elaborations in deciding self-disclosure. However, surprisingly, the influence from audience diversity in the network on self-disclosure was revealed to be minimal. The study underscored the self-serving purpose of self-disclosure online, such that young adults would chiefly focus on considerations surrounding themselves instead of the audience representation. The current study pointed to the potential domination of self-concerns more than audience-related considerations for self-disclosure on SNSs for young adults. Future directions are discussed.