Social Media: Privacy & Self-Disclosure

What is self-disclosure?

Self-disclosure may be defined as any information about himself which Person A communicates verbally to a Person B.
— Cozby (1973)

As you can see, this definition shows that self-disclosure is a pre-Internet concept. However, Internet and Social Media have had a profound impact on it.

Updating this definition to a post-Internet era definition will change two basic points in it:

  1. 'Person B' is not a single human anymore; it can be a list of friends on Facebook, or followers on Twitter.
  2. the 'Communication' is not just verbally, it can be photos, videos, status updates, tweets, or even check-ins.

Why Self-Disclosure?

The research shows that one of the reasons behind self-disclosure is to gain others' Trust by letting them into our personal and private life. People try to create trust in order to form relationships. This behaviour is a result of humans' efforts to satisfy their need for socialising and leads to self-disclosure.

Why Should You Even Care?

The fact that we are all human, and we have the desire to 'connect' will cause us to self-disclose. However, self-disclosure doesn't have a problem per se, as long as we are in control, and we know how to protect our privacy.

Knowing a simple point like "what you share on the Internet cannot be removed for an unknown period of time - if not ever!" will help us understand the importance of what we share.

Also, knowing that what we share can come back and haunt us (like tweeting about "calling in sick for work" just because you don't feel like waking up, or that you hate your boss when you know your boss is a follower!!!), can raise awareness and help us to use social media more wisely.


Don't fear it, learn it.



Cozby, P. C. (1973) ‘Self-disclosure: A literature review.’, Psychological Bulletin, 79(2), pp. 73–91. doi: 10.1037/h0033950