Social Support, Reciprocity, and Anonymity in Responses to Sexual Abuse Disclosures on Social Media

Researchers provide an understanding of disclosure, support seeking, and support providing behaviors in the context of sexual abuse on social media, and the role of anonymity in the seeking and provision of social support.

NAZANIN ANDALIBI, University of Michigan School of Information
OLIVER L. HAIMSON, University of Michigan School of Information
MUNMUN DE CHOUDHURY, Georgia Institute of Technology
ANDREA FORTE, Drexel University

ABSTRACT – Seeking and providing support is challenging. When people disclose sensitive information, audience responses can substantially impact the discloser’s wellbeing. We use mixed methods to understand responses to online sexual abuse-related disclosures on Reddit. We characterize disclosure responses, then investigate relationships between post content, comment content, and anonymity. We illustrate what types of support sought and provided in posts and comments co-occur. We find that posts seeking support receive more comments, and comments from “throwaway” (i.e., anonymous) accounts are more likely on posts also from throwaway accounts. Anonymous commenting enables commenters to share intimate content such as reciprocal disclosures and supportive messages, and commenter anonymity is not associated with aggressive or unsupportive comments. We argue that anonymity is an essential factor in designing social technologies that facilitate support seeking and provision in socially stigmatized contexts, and provide implications for social media site design. CAUTION: This paper includes content about sexual abuse.

Human-centered computing → Social media; Human-centered computing → Collaborative and social computing; Human-centered computing → Human computer interaction (HCI); Human-centered computing → Social networking sites; Information systems → Social networking sites

ACM Transaction on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), Volume 25 Issue 5, October 2018 Article No. 28: TBD. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/3234942 .

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