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

  • Chris Fullwood University of Wolverhampton
  • Mike Thelwall University of Wolverhampton
  • Sam O'Neill
Keywords: chat rooms, self-disclosure, profile construction, sex differences


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.

Author Biographies

Chris Fullwood, University of Wolverhampton
Chris Fullwood is a senior lecturer in the Psychology Department of the University of Wolverhampton, U.K. and is a member of the Wolverhampton Internet and Technology Society (WITS) research group.
Mike Thelwall, University of Wolverhampton
Mike Thelwall is Professor of Information Science and leader of the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group at the University of Wolverhampton, U.K. He is also visiting fellow of the Amsterdam Virtual Knowledge Studio, a Docent at Åbo Akademi University Department of Information Studies, and a research associate at the Oxford Internet Institute. He has developed tools for downloading and analysing Web sites, blogs and social networking sites, including the research Web crawler SocSciBot and software for statistical and topological analyses of site structures (through links) and site content (through text). He has published 152 refereed journal articles, seven book chapters, and two books including Introduction to Webometrics, is an associate editor of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology and sits on eight other editorial boards.
Sam O'Neill
Sam O?Neill is a graduate from the University of Wolverhampton Psychology Department.
How to Cite
Fullwood, C., Thelwall, M., & O’Neill, S. (2011). Clandestine chatters: Self-disclosure in U.K. chat room profiles. First Monday, 16(5).