Norms as Regulating Factors for Self-Disclosure in a Collapsed Context: Norm Orientation Among Referent Others on Facebook

Arne Freya Zillich, Kathrin Friederike Müller


Users face the challenge of balancing the tension between disclosing and concealing personal information on social network sites. We argue that users handle this challenge by collectively establishing norms. Applying a focus group methodology, we analyzed which norms of self-disclosure exist among German Facebook users and the reference groups to which they referred, how they shape users’ self-disclosure practices on Facebook, and how these norms and practices have changed over time. Descriptive norms manifested themselves mainly by referring to negative self-disclosure practices of relevant others, but the injunctive norms of self-disclosure were of great relevance to the participants. The participants stated that users should present themselves strategically, communicate consciously concerning their privacy, and not post about the private lives of others. Users can manage the context collapse on Facebook by adapting their communicative activities there to the norms they perceive within their reference groups.


norms, self-disclosure, privacy, reference group, context collapse, Facebook

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