Testing Waters, Sending Clues: Indirect Disclosures of Socially Stigmatized Experiences on Social Media

A paper co-authored by researchers at the University of Michigan, Drexel University, and the University of Washington has been accepted for the 21st ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing. The researchers identify motivations and strategies behind "Vaguebooking," "Subtweeting," and related indirect disclosure decisions and their implications for platform providers.
Nazanin Andalibi, University of Michigan Margaret Morris, University of Washington Andrea Forte, Drexel University Indirect disclosure strategies include hinting about an experience or a facet of one’s identity or relaying information explicitly but through another person. These strategies lend themselves to sharing stigmatized or sensitive experiences such as a pregnancy loss, mental illness, or abuse. Drawing on interviews with women in the U.S. who use social media and experienced pregnancy loss, we investigated factors guiding indirect disclosure decisions on social media. Our findings include 1) a typology of indirect disclosure strategies based on content obviousness, original content creator, and content sharer, and 2) an examination of indirect disclosure decision factors related to the self, audience, platform affordances, and temporality. We identify how people intentionally adapt social media and indirect disclosures to meet psychological (e.g., keeping a personal record) and social (e.g., feeling out the audience) needs associated with loss. We discuss implications for design and research, including features that support disclosures through proxy, and relevance for algorithmic detection and intervention. CAUTION: This paper includes quotes about pregnancy loss. PACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 2, No. CSCW, Article 19. Publication date: November 2018. https://doi.org/10.1145/3134659