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Noonan asserts that anonymity is the key factor at work 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 environments promote self—presentation that is line with normative expectations and this may be because people have to be accountable 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 Joinson 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 that 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 room 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 context, 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 percent , their first name only 36 percent , or 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 page Herring, et al.
So 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 and 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.
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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 a 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 pages seems to be an important aspect of the popularity of social networking Joinson, , which gives an incentive to 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 profile 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 frequently listed their phone number.
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There were non—significant gender differences in 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 might 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 categories including name, location, age, marital status, occupation, e—mail and homepage 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 significantly 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 was 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. Another important factor to consider when regarding impression management and self—disclosure online is the sex and age of the user. A number 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.
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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. This might also reflect the types of information that men post about themselves on their profiles.
As well as there being interesting sex differences in Internet use patterns, a number of investigations have also revealed differences between age groups. Patterns of Internet consumption are relatively stable between the ages of 12 and 39, however after the age of 40 a steady decline in Internet activity is evident Fox and Madden, The types of applications used by different age groups also seem to differ. For example, communication applications such as chat rooms and instant messenger services are said to be more popular with adolescents Boneva, et al.
Chat rooms also seem to be more popular with younger adults. Teens and young adults are also more likely to have an online profile. Research also reveals that teens who have profiles online and this will include social network sites where it is more common to include detailed information 82 percent include their first name, 79 percent have a photo of themselves, 66 percent include photos of friends, 61 percent reveal the name of their hometown, and 29 percent include a personal e—mail address Lenhart and Madden, Although no comparison with other age groups is available, it appears that teens tend to include a lot of information about themselves on their online profiles and are unlikely to remain anonymous from other users.
The literature review would suggest that there are at least four factors that are likely to influence self—disclosure online. The first of these factors is self—disclosure norms. Self—disclosure norms are likely to differ between the sexes and varying age groups but also between different online genres.
For instance, it may be more acceptable for an individual to disclose their sexual fantasies in a chat room due to the shared motivations and common goals of the chatters, but less acceptable in a social networking environment. The second factor is the types of individuals with whom we interact with in specific online environments. Social networking sites tend to be used in anchored ways, therefore individuals are communicating on the whole with friends and acquaintances. Chat rooms on the other hand are used mainly to communicate with strangers.
The kinds of individuals we typically communicate with are likely to influence to types and extent of information we disclose about ourselves in our profiles. For instance, it would be more difficult to be deceitful in an SNS context as other users would be wise to this deception. The third factor is the motivation for using a specific online application. There are said to be three main motivational factors for blogging: self—expression, identity management and networking Fullwood, et al.
These factors are likely to influence the level and types of disclosure in the blog, but also in the profile. We might expect people to be less inclined to identify themselves if they are writing about very personal issues for example. Social networking sites may be used primarily to sustain existing friendships and therefore individuals may be more inclined to reveal identity information.
In a chat room context, the motivation for use might be quite different and considering the often sexualised nature of chat room communications, identity information may be less forthcoming.
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A more anonymous environment may encourage disclosure of a sexual nature, as individuals may feel more comfortable communicating personal thoughts and feelings when others do not know their identity. Motivations may therefore inform how much and what types of information people include in their profiles. Finally, anonymity is likely to influence self—disclosure and profile construction. One would expect chat room users to be more anonymous than blog or SNS users and this is likely to result in a less detailed profile with less identity information.
People commonly behave in a less inhibited fashion online and this is a likely product of anonymity and invisibility Suler, Comparative to face—to—face interactions, we might therefore expect people to disclose more explicit and personal information online generally. This investigation, however, is concerned with the manner in which the use of a specific type of online application the chat room influences self—disclosure and profile construction.
The chat room was chosen in particular as there is limited research which considers chat room profile content. Moreover, the chat room is a unique online environment as interactions take place principally between strangers Nie and Erbring, Data collected from this investigation can therefore be compared with profile construction data from previous investigations using blog and social networking profiles in order to help elucidate potential factors that influence profile construction and self—disclosure online.
The profile is also an ideal location to explore self—disclosure as it represents an online social CV in which the individual chooses how much or what types of information to disclose. As most online profiles request similar types of information, this also allows for a more direct and fair comparison between various profiles for different types of online applications. Furthermore, sex and age have been highlighted as potential moderating factors in self—disclosure.
Therefore, this study is also concerned with whether disclosure between the sexes and different age groups differ as a function of the online world in which we are interacting. On the basis of the literature reviewed, it was expected that men would post less information about themselves than women, as well as less identity information.
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It was also expected that the younger chat users would post more information about themselves. Overall, it was anticipated that chatters would reveal less identity information about themselves comparative to previous studies investigating profile construction in blog and social networking environments. These chat rooms were chosen as they were expected to appeal to different age groups, therefore allowing for an age comparison of profile content. It was also thought that, as they were not focused on a specific interest or group, they would appeal to a wide array of chat room users, therefore allowing for the results to generalised more readily.
Lycos chat rooms are password restricted; other than requesting that chatters are at least 18, users do not have to meet any other restriction criteria. Profile information is available to view by any user on the chat room; therefore it was assumed that the information posted in them would be public domain information. A content analysis approach was employed.
The data were coded using emergent coding i. In the first instance, the investigator accessed profiles from both chat rooms and noted all types of information that users posted on their profiles so a codebook could be constructed. Category development therefore derived from the types of information that actual chat users revealed about themselves in their profiles. Each chat room was accessed on two different occasions, once in the afternoon and once during the evening for a period of one—hour in each instance.
Therefore, each chat room was visited for total period of two hours. In total profiles were accessed during the daytime slots between In total, data were collected from the profiles of chatters.