Contextualizing Self-Disclosure to the Online Environment: An Assessment of the Literature

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Online self-disclosure – any message about the self that one person communicates to another – has been studied for nearly two decades. Self-disclosure research started with the study of face-to-face interactions within the communications and psychology disciplines and expanded to study communicative behaviors online in many disciplines, including Information Systems. This paper develops a framework to evaluate how effectively self-disclosure measures are contextualized to the online environment. To do so, we review the multidisciplinary literature on online self-disclosure, analyze online self-disclosure measures, and evaluate their degree of contextualization to online interactions. We find inconsistent measurement of online self-disclosure and reported results across studies. Based on our analysis, we provide recommendations for improving the contextualization and measurement of self-disclosure in online environments, including reconceptualizing the dimension of intent, improving the quality of existing instruments, and identifying context-specific dimensions to address the unique features of online communication.