Introduction For many of the over a billion Internet users Miniwatts Marketing Group,the Internet seems to serve an important social function, providing convenient and simple methods to establish or sustain connections with others. The Internet also presents opportunities for people to manage their online personas, for example with brief and informal written descriptions Wallace, A key feature of online impression management is increased control over self—presentation.
For example, pictures can be carefully selected and even edited. We may also wish to promote certain desirable personality traits and omit those that are more unpleasant. Essentially, it is our decision as to what we say and the manner in which we say it Wallace, It is therefore easy to see fro certain individuals may prefer to present themselves online. With the increasing popularity of social networking sites SNSsit is now relatively easy, even for novice users, to have an online presence.
One does not need to be proficient in computer programming to de a simple online profile as a means to interact with others. Although Lenhart and Madden found that that 49 percent of U. Therefore, communications will take place primarily between individuals who have had some form of contact off—line. One place where encounters with strangers are likely to take place more frequently however is the chat room Nie and Erbring, ; Mileham, Therefore, the chat room represents an online arena in which zero acquaintance interactions take place more frequently.
Like SNSs, many chat rooms afford members the opportunity to create a profile and it is likely that many first impressions will be based on the information fr there.
One would expect that many chat room users would choose whether or not to interact with another member on the basis of the information presented in their profile. Chat rooms allow for synchronous communication with the possibility of interacting with multiple strangers or at least individuals who have not been ly met face—to—face.
For this reason, effectively managing first impressions through the construction of the profile would seem to be particularly relevant in the chat room. Furthermore, chat room users are said to construct their profiles in a manner that increases the possibility of being contacted by desirable others Li, For these reasons, one might expect the type of information that chat room users make available about themselves to differ from the profiles on other online applications for example, SNSs or blog sites.
Motivations for creating profiles in nonymous environments in other words, environments in which personal identity information is readily availablesuch as personal Web s and social networking sites, may also differ from those who choose to create a profile in an environment in which users may remain anonymous.
The manner in which we manage impressions might therefore be intricately linked to the type of online application being used as well as the motivation for taking part in a specific online activity. Therefore, this study is principally interested in investigating the types of profile information that chat room users make available about themselves so comparisons can be made with findings from profile construction studies on social networking and blog sites. Self—disclosure roims and online Self—disclosure has been described as the process by which we tell others about ourselves Jourard,the revelation and concealment of private information Burgoon, and more recently as the divulging of intimate information about the self Derlega, et al.
Self—disclosure is said to play an integral role in relationship development, with deeper levels of self—disclosure being likely to occur in more intimate relationships Altman and Taylor, Moreover, Maccoby and Jacklin argued that whereas boys gather together in larger peer groups, girls prefer smaller, more intimate friendships and for this reason this may incline females to self—disclose more than males.
Empirical evidence does indeed seem to support the view that women of all ages disclose more personal information about themselves than men. For instance, Dindia and Allen performed a meta—analysis roomw self—disclosure studies with a total of 23, participants.
Across the studies, women were slightly more likely than men to self—disclose. Furthermore, relationship status was a moderating factor, insofar as that men and women disclosed similarly to a stranger, but women disclosed more often to a close acquaintance e. More cnat, Morgan provided evidence for the notion that whereas the sexes may disclose similarly concerning non—intimate topics, women disclose intimate information to others more freely.
Age is also said to play an important role in self—disclosure. Parker and Parrott for instance noted that whereas young adults 19—24 are more likely to self—disclose to their friends, elderly adults 65—93 are more likely to self—disclose to their family. This finding may be an upshot of a reduction in social circles as one ages. Their findings also intimate that the greater the generational gap between individuals, the less likely that self—disclosure will occur.
Common knowledge regarding personality and social history would also mean that in pretending to be someone we were not, others would be wise to this deception Zhao, et al. One problem associated with an increased level of control in online self—presentation is that it becomes relatively easy for someone to stretch the truth.
Cues to physical appearance are often unavailable in online communication, and an increased likelihood of interacting with strangers means that shared knowledge about personal backgrounds will be inaccessible in many online interactions. Wallace even suggests that people might not think it deceitful to change characteristics online; instead we might see it as a game. This may not be as uncommon as one might suspect.
Recent statistics illustrate that nearly half of all teens with online profiles give out false information about themselves Fox and Madden,although the intention may not be to mislead. Certain online contexts may also make it easier to post false information or indeed a lack of information altogether.
Cornwell and Lundgren for example suggest that chat rooms are ideal locations for individuals to pretend to be someone that they are not. Noonan asserts that anonymity is the key factor at rloms when it comes to falsifying, exaggerating or omitting information about oneself. Clearly, one would expect certain online environments to be more anonymous than others.
Overall, evidence suggests that individuals are more honest and realistic in the way in which they present themselves to others in nonymous environments such as dating Web sites Ellison, et al. Essentially, nonymous oldd promote self—presentation that is line with normative expectations and this may be because people have to be able for their actions Cinnirella and Green, However, although the chat room may encourage members to disclose less identity information, chat room members may be less likely to converse with friends and people often feel more comfortable opening up to strangers Parks and Roberts, Whitty and son suggest that an awareness of the environment in which individuals are disclosing information is a crucial factor in self—disclosure.
Therefore, it would seem that self—disclosure has a complex nexus with sex, age and anonymity. Chat rooms are frequently used by those who wish to engage in flirtatious or highly sexualised communications Subrahmanyam, et al. Evidence also suggests cha males are likely to communicate in chat rooms in a more sexually explicit fashion, whereas females communicate sexual information more implicitly Subrahmanyam, et al. Chat cor communications are also more likely to contain sexual themes when the chat room is unmonitored Subrahmanyam, et al.
Chat room users may therefore choose to use these services because they can get away with behaving in a more socially improper way. Indeed, Fullwood, et al. Although there has been relatively little research which has considered profile content in a chat room jear, Fox and Madden suggest that 55 percent of online teens in the U.
As a way of comparison, blog users typically post some form of name, whether it be their full name 31 percenttheir first name only 36 percentor a pseudonym 29 percent Herring, et al. Furthermore, the same study also found that over half of blog authors indicate some form of demographic information, including age, location, occupation or a link to a personal home Herring, et al. Yera why would the majority of these individuals choose to identify themselves when the option to remain anonymous is available?
This seems somewhat anomalous considering that blogs are often personal, candid or intimate Huffaker and Calvert, One might expect these types of expressions to be easier in an anonymous environment.
According to Huffaker and Calvert it is likely that identity information is important to blog authors as the personal journal encourages disclosure. A closer inspection of these figures however may suggest an alternative explanation. Unless the reader personally knows the blog author, the inclusion of a first name only would make it difficult to connect a particular blog to a specific individual in the offline world. Potentially, a great deal of demographic ols personal information would be needed to identify an individual blogger offline.
Bloggers may therefore still feel some degree of security and anonymity even when they supply some form of identity information. It may also be the case that bloggers feel free to disclose identity information, as they are unaware of the potential size of their audience. Sites like MySpace and Facebook generally allow members to post personal data. A photograph and some general information are frequently requested, including age, gender and geographic location. Moreover, MySpace and some other sites ask chqt range of optional questions, such as occupation, religion and relationship status.
MySpace also solicits some opinions, for instance concerning attitudes to children, as well as for lists of favourite books, films and music. All social networking sites also allow members to post content in pictures, blogs, comments or biography sections that may reveal additional personal information. For example, photographs may illustrate personal relationships and blog postings may function as a diary.
It seems that the optional profile information is frequently not completed and there are varied attitudes towards privacy and personal security amongst members Hinduja and Patchin, Nevertheless, the content of profile s seems to be an important aspect of the popularity of social networking son,which gives an incentive gooms publish personal information. With regards to the amount of information typically included in a SNS profile, Gross and Acquisti found that It would seem that SNSs encourage self—disclosure and identity revelation.
This is not surprising considering that members of these services use them predominately in an anchored way, in other words to correspond with pre—existing offline friends and acquaintances. There are also gender differences in the extent to which caht information is reported in social networking sites. A study of profile information from a large sample of MySpace members found that females were more likely than males to have a private profile Thelwall, A study of college users of MySpace and Facebook explored gender differences in the types of profile information reported Tufekci, Females more frequently listed favourite music, favourite books, and their religion.
In contrast, males more fot listed their phone.
There were non—ificant gender differences chag the use of real names and the listing of political views, favourite films, romantic status and sexual orientation. A tentative explanation would be that males may be more likely to use these applications for pursuing romantic or sexual relationships with other users. One yeat expect the pattern of disclosure to be different for chat room profiles, comparative to blog and SNS profiles, as the motivations for using such sites may be very different.
A cross—cultural study by Li examined what types of information chatters provide in their profiles in English and Chinese chat rooms. The data were collected from Yahoo chat rooms and the presence of including name, location, age, marital status, occupation, e—mail and home were recorded. Overall, it was found that over half of the chatters included a personal photo on their profile. Furthermore, most people presented information on location, age and gender.
Overall, chatters were disinclined to include highly personal information in their profiles, for example marriage status and e—mail address. However, in comparing the profiles of the Chinese and English chatters, the English chatters were ificantly more likely to include personal information, for example marriage status Comparatively to blog and SNS profiles, it would seem that chat room profile owners may be less likely to disclose identity information, however precise figures on the proportion of profiles containing the names of the users rokms not made available in the Li study.
However, there does appear to be some tentative support for the notion that the amount and types of information individuals display on their profiles is influenced by the online application being used. Sex and age as potential factors in chat room profile construction 99 important factor to consider when regarding impression management and self—disclosure online is the sex and age of the user.
A of sex and age differences have been noted in Internet usage patterns generally, but also with regards to chat room behaviour and this might influence the types and amount of information posted on the profile. Men seem more likely to go online regularly Fallows, and are more likely to use chat rooms Fallows, ; National Opinion Research Center, Fallows suggests that women are less likely to participate in chat room communications due to an increased public awareness concerning anti—social and worrisome behaviours that take place in them.
There is also some suggestion that whereas women are more likely to use the Internet to maintain social relationships, men are more likely to use the Internet for dating or to pursue sexual relationships Fallows, It may be likely then that men use chat rooms more regularly for this purpose than women.