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Cyberpsychol Behav. 2007 Jun;10(3):407-17.

Degree and reciprocity of self-disclosure in online forums.

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  • 1Department of Education, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel.


Cyberspace has become a common social environment in which people interact and operate in many ways. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the occurrence and reciprocity of self-disclosure, two subjects that are extensively studied in face-to-face interactions but only to a limited degree in virtual, computer-mediated, textual communication. Data was based on 240 first messages in a thread, sampled in equal numbers from six Internet forums (three discussion and three support groups), and written in equal numbers by each gender, and 240 first responses to them (a total of 480 forum messages). Trained, expert judges blindly rated each message on the degree to which it disclosed personal information, thoughts, and feelings. Linguistic parameters (total number of words and number of first-voice words) were also used as dependent variables. Results showed the following: (a) self-disclosure in support forums was much higher than in discussion forums, in terms of both total number and type of disclosure; (b) messages in support forums were longer and included more first-voice words than in discussion forums; (c) there were no gender differences interacting with level of self-disclosure; (d) reciprocity of self-disclosure was evident, yielding positive correlations between the measures of self-disclosure in messages and responses to them; (e) some differences appeared in level of reciprocity of self-disclosure between male and female participants, with female respondents tending to be more reciprocal than male respondents. The implications of these results are discussed in light of growing social interactions online, and possible applications are suggested.

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