Self-Disclosure Patterns among Chinese Users in SNS and Face-to-Face Communication

Self-Disclosure Patterns among Chinese Users in SNS and Face-to-Face Communication

Yashu Chen (Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICST.2015010105
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This exploratory study focused on Chinese social network sites (SNS) users to determine whether their online self-disclosure differed from offline and whether culture had an impact on the patterns of their self-disclosure. Sixteen active users of Chinese online social networks were interviewed about their self-disclosing experiences. Results of a qualitative analysis suggest that culture was likely to impact the behavior of study participants by modifying the patterns of self-disclosure. Participants tended to disclose themselves indirectly on SNS, strived to make positive impressions, and revealed few intimate issues. In face-to-face communication, the relationships between disclosers and target persons as well as the target persons' status and background influenced the contents of self-disclosure.
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Literature Review

Research has shown that culture, gender, motives, personality traits, specific contexts and topics, and other factors can influence the patterns of self-disclosure (Kim & Dindia, 2008). Self-disclosure has been defined as disclosure of individuals’ personal information to others in the form of written word (Lai & Yang, 2014). As early as 1979, Chelune argued that self-disclosure involves revealing personal and private information (e.g., thoughts, feelings, or experiences). Nakanishi (1986) posited that mutual relationships between culture and communication could result in multiple self-disclosure patterns. Culture has been viewed as “a constellation of loosely organized values, practices and norms shared by an interconnected group of people in a given nation,” which “conditions language patterns” as well as “regulates what, where, and how we communicate” (Chen, 1995, p. 85; Jackson & Wang, 2013, p. 910).

Several theoretical conceptualizations can help understand the nature of self-disclosure among Chinese social network site users. According to social penetration theory (Tang & Wang, 2012), during the initial interaction stage of relational development, individuals might not disclose important information about themselves because of personal safety. However, individuals may disclose more information as their relationships with the target person progress. From a uses and gratifications perspective, self-disclosing behavior of microblog users (Lai and Yang, 2014) can be affected by popularity (e.g., being attractive) and interpersonal needs (e.g., building intimate relationships).

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