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The Perils and Promises of Self-Disclosure on Social Media

Richey, Michelle and Gonibeed, Aparna and Ravishankar, MN (2017) The Perils and Promises of Self-Disclosure on Social Media. Information Systems Frontiers, 20 (3). pp. 425-437. ISSN 1387-3326

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Abstract

In addition to their professional social media accounts, individuals are increasingly using their personal profiles and casual posts to communicate their identities to work colleagues. They do this in order to ‘stand out from the crowd’ and to signal attributes that are difficult to showcase explicitly in a work setting. Existing studies have tended to treat personal posts viewed in a professional context as a problem, since they can threaten impression management efforts. These accounts focus on the attempts of individuals to separate their life domains on social media. In contrast, we present the narratives of professional IT workers in India who intentionally disrupt the boundaries between personal and professional profiles in order to get noticed by their employers. Drawing on the dramaturgical vocabulary of Goffman (1959) we shed light on how individuals cope with increased levels of self-disclosure on social media. We argue that their self-presentations can be likened to post-modern performances in which the traditional boundaries between actor and audience are intentionally unsettled. These casual posts communicate additional personal traits that are not otherwise included in professional presentations. Since there are no strict boundaries between formal front-stage and relaxed back-stage regions in these types of performance, a liminal mental state is often used, which enables a better assessment of the type of information to present on social media.

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