Clandestine chatters: Self-disclosure in U.K. chat room profiles

Chris Fullwood, Mike Thelwall, Sam O'Neill


With the increasing popularity of social networking sites, it has become relatively common for Internet users to develop an online presence via a personal profile page. Moreover, some chat rooms allow members to develop profile pages too. As a potential first point of contact, effective profile construction may play a pivotal role in the management of first impressions. Identity construction in profiles seems to be particularly important for chat room users, because they are often likely to interact with strangers. Since chat rooms can be used for anti-social purposes, the type and extent of the information posted in chat room profiles seems likely to be different from that in online profiles for social networking sites, which may be more closely tied to offline identities. This investigation of information in 324 profiles from two Lycos chat rooms for adults found that most users include a picture of themselves on their profile, hence apparently tying themselves to their offline identity. Nevertheless, the majority remain anonymous, probably many more than for social networking sites and blog authors. There are sex differences in the types of information posted on chat room profiles, with women tending to include more personal information. Furthermore, older users are more likely to post information about relationship status and location than younger users. These sex and age differences in profile content may be a consequence of the different motivations for using the service as well as disparities in self-disclosure norms.


chat rooms; self-disclosure; profile construction; sex differences

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