I'll poke you. You'll poke me!" Self-disclosure, social
attraction, predictability and trust as important predictors of
Department of Communication Studies
Louisiana State University, USA
The purpose of this research was to test how social attraction on Facebook influences
self-disclosure, predictability, and trust in another individual. Results of a survey of 243
students showed that we tell our personal secrets on Facebook to those that we like.
Although many nonverbal cues are absent on Facebook, its users still perceive a high
predictability of their Facebook friends’ behavior. Facebook users have very little
uncertainty about the behavior of the person to whom they intimately self-disclose to.
Our findings support Uncertainty Reduction Theory – the more Facebook users talk, the
less uncertainty they experience (Axiom 1) and are able to like each other more. The
more certain they are about their behavior, the more they trust them, and the more they
trust them, the more they disclose to them.
Keywords: Facebook, social network sites, structural equation modeling,
friendship, uncertainty reduction theory
It is not news that personal relationships are forming online as well as offline.
Personal relationships can also be maintained online, such that senders and
receivers do not have to look at each other face-to-face. Although online
communication can lack face-to-face characteristics, such as physical proximity,
frequent interaction, and physical appearance, people in an online setting can
still reduce their uncertainty about one another. According to researchers,
(Bargh, McKenna, & Fitzsimons, 2002; McKenna, Green, & Gleason, 2002;
Wellman & Gulia, 1999), frequency of contact is what is crucial in the
formulation of online relationships. Physical proximity is not possible. According
to Walther (1996), computer-mediated communication facilitated the formation
of “hyperpersonal” relationships – greater feelings of intimacy than would have
otherwise been experienced in face-to-face (FTF) relationships.
Due to the growth of new social software applications such as Instant
Messaging, Blogs, Wikis, and a variety of social network services, today people
connect and interact through computer-mediated communication (Gennaro &
Dutton, 2007), of which Facebook and MySpace are most popular. The main
motive for Facebook use in studies by Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2007) and
Sheldon (2008) is relationship maintenance or social contact with people we
know in real life. Founded in 2004 by Harvard undergraduate student Mark
Zuckerberg, Facebook is one of the fastest growing social network sites (SNS)
today, with over 300 million active users (http://www.facebook.com,
October, 2009), of which the majority are college students (Mack, Behler,
Roberts, & Rimland, 2007). The generation born roughly between 1980 and
1994 has been characterized as the “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001) or the “Net
generation” (Tapscott, 1998). They are living lives immersed in technology,
“surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video
cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age” (Prensky,
2001, p. 1). Arnett (2004) coined the term “emerging adulthood” to describe
young adults (between the ages of 18 and 29) who are postponing marriages
and parenthood until their late twenties and later, while spending their time in
self-focused exploration, searching for their career and religious identities (Cote,
2006). Arnett (2004) argued that emerging adulthood is “a time of exploration
and instability, a self-focused age, and an age of possibilities” (p. 21). Acar
(2008) argued that online social networks, better known as social network sites
(SNS), are not only larger than regular social networks but also structurally
different since they are not highly influenced by demographic factors such as
income and attractiveness. An average Facebook user has several times more
friends on Facebook than in real life (Acar, 2008; Sheldon, 2008), the reasons
being a perceived lower risk of accepting new members, easiness of requesting
a membership, social desirability (positive feeling of online popularity), and
failing to exclude members who are no longer contacted (Acar, 2008, p. 77).
A January 2009 Compete.com study has ranked Facebook as the most used
social network by worldwide monthly active users, followed by MySpace
(Kazeniac, 2009). Its “Top Friends” application was the most engaged
application among U.S. Internet users in November 2007. According to the same
source, visitors between the ages of 18-24 were twice as likely as the average
Facebook visitor to engage with applications, while those aged 25 and older
were less likely than average to exhibit this behavior (comScore.com, 2008).
Previous research found that university students go to Facebook to maintain
their relationships (Ellison et al., 2007; Sheldon, 2008), pass time when bored,
or to find companionship (Sheldon, 2008). Within and across social networks,
users are allowed to search for other registered users and can initiate requests
to other individuals to be friends. The implicit definition of friends on Facebook
ranges from established intimate relationships to simply being acquainted (boyd,
2006).Boyd (2008) argues that SNSs are “network publics” that support
sociability, just as unmediated public spaces do.
Emerging adults use a variety of online and offline social networks to establish
intimacy and connect and reconnect with friends and family members
(Subrahmanyam, Reich, Waechter, & Espinoza, 2008). In a Subrahmanyam et
al. (2008) study, emerging adults used social network sites to stay in touch with
their friends and relatives that they have not seen that often. Most of their time
on social networking sites was spent reading comments, writing comments, and
responding to comments and messages. In the Subrahmanyam et al. study,
college students answered the questions about their closest friend in three
contexts: social networking sites, instant messaging, and face-to-face. Although
studies (Steinfield, Ellison, & Lampe, 2008) suggested that emerging adults use
social networking sites to connect with people from their offline lives, the
overlap between the mediums in the Subrahmanyam et al. study was not
perfect. In fact, only slightly more than half had any overlap between their top
instant messaging, social networking, and face-to-face friends. Few (2.5%) had
a perfect overlap between their online and offline friends. This suggests that
young adults‟ offline and online worlds are not mirror images of each other
(Subrahmanyam et al., 2008).
Researchers have also been interested in who benefits from online relationships.
The Social Compensation or “Poor-Get-Richer” Hypothesis suggests that those
who have poor social networks and social anxiety can get more benefit by
disclosing themselves freely and creating new relationships through the
Internet. Internet benefits introverts more than extraverts (McKenna & Bargh,
2000). That is, new relationships and interactions online may compensate for
the social capital that these people lack in the offline world. Studies showed that
the Internet‟s anonymity and reduced cues might stimulate online self-
disclosure because there is no fear of being ridiculed or rejected (Derlega,
Metts, & Petronio, 1993; Pennebaker, 1989). Sheldon and Honeycutt (2008)
found that students who are afraid of face-to-face meetings are more likely to
go on Facebook to pass time when bored or to occupy their time. On Facebook
they can interact with others without looking at each other‟s face. This may be
particularly appealing to introverts when trying to open up.
On another hand, scholars (Kraut, Kiesler, Boneva, Cummings, Helgeson, &
Crawford, 2002) argued that the “Rich-Get-Richer” hypothesis may be true. The
“Rich-Get-Richer” or the Social Enhancement Hypothesis states that the Internet
primarily benefits extraverted individuals. Peter, Valkenburg, and Schouten
(2005) found that extraverted adolescents self-disclosed and communicated
online more often. Moreover, MacIntyre, Babin, and Clement (1999) found that
extroverts communicate more with others on the Internet than do introverts.
Online communication, according to them, increases the opportunities for
extraverted adolescents to make friends. In their model, extraverted individuals
disclosed more online than introverted.
The reason for such contradictory findings is not by chance. Online communities
such as chats, blogs and social networks have different purposes, and therefore
attract different audiences. Facebook is a social network that connects people
that know or knew each other face-to-face. In fact, Sheldon (2008) reports that
individuals who feel anxiety and fears in their face-to-face communication use
Facebook to pass time and feel less lonely more often than other respondents,
but they have fewer Facebook friends. Her findings support the Rich-Get-Richer
Hypothesis (Kraut et al., 2002). People who get involved in online relationships
are not necessarily those with difficulties in face-to-face communication.
Facebook resembles word-of-mouth communication.
Studies have also compared the qualities of online versus offline relationships.
While some studies suggested that features of online communication, such as
anonymity and isolation make it easier for individuals to form strong ties
(McKenna et al., 2002; Joinson, 2001), other reported that that the quality of
online social interactions is lower than that of face-to-face interactions
(Haythornthwaite, 2002). In one study, college students evaluated e-mail
communication as inferior to communication in person (Cummings, Butler, &
Kraut, 2002). Wellman (1997), however, noted that the relationships formed
online are strong when they are voluntary and revolve around a common
interest. Social Information Processing Theory (SIPT; Walther, 1992) has been
developed to explain how people develop and maintain relationships in a
computer-mediated environment. According to SIPT, people can develop online
relationships that are similar to or better than normative face-to-face
interactions. Even when nonverbal cues are unavailable, the remaining
communication systems are employed to do the work of those that are missing
(Walther, 2008). The theory asserts that, when individuals are motivated and
allowed sufficient time to exchange social information, relationships developed
via CMC approximate to the same level of development over time as those
established through face-to-face interaction (Walther & Burgoon, 1992; Walther,
Numerous studies have been conducted in the area of interpersonal
relationships to describe how friendships develop (Chan & Cheng, 2004).
According to Parks and Floyd (1996) and Chung (2003), interpersonal
relationships of all types are usually conceptualized as developing from the
impersonal to the personal along a series of relatively specific dimensions: an
increase in interdependence, breadth and depth of the interaction, a shared
communicative code change (specialized ways of communicating), an
interpersonal predictability and understanding, and a continued relationship into
the future. Uncertainty Reduction Theory and Social Penetration Theory can
potentially improve understanding of the development and qualities of
A number of studies have looked at how people use Facebook and MySpace, but
few (Craig, Igiel, Wright, Cunningham, & Ploeger, 2007) have concentrated on
testing existing interpersonal communication and relationship theories in a social
network setting. Craig et al. (2007) examined the role of perceived similarity
and social attraction on self-disclosure on Facebook, and they found that CMC
relational development and face-to-face relational development are quite
similar. The perception of attraction influenced self-disclosure patterns. Since
some findings (Walther, 1992, 1996) on FTF relationship development suggests
that self-disclosure drives attraction, Craig et al. (2007) proposed to explore the
possibility of that relationship. They also urged for the expansion of the model
so it includes other variables.
In order for online communities to survive, it is important that people trust each
other. Trust is a key component of any healthy relationship. Although it has not
been extensively studied in CMC, trust is important for the development of
intimacy and commitment (Anderson & Emmers-Sommer, 2006) and for the
development of close relationships (Rempel, Holmes, & Zanna, 1985). According
to Rempel et al. “trust is seen to evolve out of past experience and prior
interaction; thus it develops as the relationship matures” (p. 96).
The present study explores relationship development on Facebook by focusing
on the relationship between social attraction, self-disclosure, predictability, and
trust between Facebook users. As advised by Craig et al. (2007), we tested two
models, one in which social attraction drives self-disclosure and one in which
self disclosure leads to a higher level of interpersonal trust in the person to
whom we disclose. The second model tested the hypothesis that self-disclosure
leads to interpersonal attraction and is an outcome of trust. Predictability was a
mediating variable between self-disclosure and trust in both models. Since we
had multiple dependent relationships, Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was
used to test our research questions. The overarching goal of this study was to
advance the understanding of Social Penetration Theory and Uncertainty
Reduction Theory in a computer-mediated environment, specifically in a
Facebook relationship. Members of Facebook disclose lots of private information
They display not only their personal interests, but also pictures of themselves,
which may influence perceptions of their physical and social attractiveness.
Within a face-to-face context, many relational development studies posit that
increases in self-disclosure lead to perceptions of interpersonal attractions. We
discuss what the self-disclosure is and how it is related to social attraction.
Self-Disclosure and Interpersonal Attraction on Facebook
Self-disclosure is the process of revealing personal information about oneself
verbally (e.g. Berg & Derlega, 1987). Personal information refers to private
information than cannot be obtained without importing other direct or indirect
methods (e.g. Kim, Lee, & Park, 2006; Derlega et al., 1993). In interpersonal
relationships, self-disclosure plays a crucial role in the development of human
relationships. Self-disclosure can also be a strategy for impression formation,
social validation, or social control (Kim, Lee, & Park, 2006; Derlega et al, 1993).
A theory that deals with the different aspects of self-disclosure in relationship
development is called the Social Penetration Theory. According to Social
Penetration Theory (Altman & Taylor, 1987), relationships develop as the level
of social penetration increases. Altman and Taylor (1973) dimensions of self-
disclosure include: a) breadth, the amount of information, or number of topics
of self-disclosure, and b) depth, the intimacy of self-disclosure. Studies usually
show that the level of intimacy has a much larger effect than the amount
disclosed in the disclosure-liking framework (Kim, Lee, & Park, 2006; Collins &
SPT had been applied to the computer-mediated communication context. Tidwell
and Walther (2002) found that people who display interest through CMC
produce significantly higher proportions of self-disclosures than did those in FTF
interactions. Also, CMC dyads compensated for the limitations of the channel by
making their questions more intimate than those who exhibited face-to-face.
According To Walther‟s (1996) hyperpersonal communication framework, the
reduced nonverbal cues of CMC encourage people to feel less inhibited and more
likely to disclose their inner feelings at an earlier stage (1996).
Two different groups of theorists have suggested that self-disclosure is related
to interpersonal attraction. According to one group of researchers (Walther &
Burgoon, 1992; Tidwell & Walther, 2002) who studied the relationship between
impression formation (including attraction) and self-disclosure in a computer-
mediated environment, greater self-disclosure online leads to perceptions of
interpersonal attraction. Self-disclosure provokes attraction (Derlega et al.,
1993; McAllister & Bregman, 1983). Other CMC studies (Ramirez, Walther,
Burgoon, & Sunnafrank, 2002; Levine, 2000) support the idea that perceptions
of attraction may drive self-disclosure. People tend to like those who disclose to
you first, and people tend to disclose more to those they like (Collins & Miller,
1994; Kim, Lee, & Park, 2006). According to Theorem 14 of Uncertainty
Reduction Theory, persons tend to disclose intimate information to persons they
like and withhold intimate information from persons whom they do not like
(Berger & Calabrese, 1975).
Since researchers cannot agree about causal relationships between self-
disclosure and social attraction, we ask the following research question in
relation to Facebook relationships:
RQ1: What is the relationship between social attraction and self-disclosure in
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
Initially, Berger and Calabrese (1975) developed Uncertainty Reduction Theory
(URT) to explain only initial interactions between people. Later, Berger (1987)
updated the theory. He argues that uncertainties are ongoing in relationships
and are not just relevant to initial interactions. Parks and Adelman (1983) found
that the more partners communicate with their social networks (friends and
family members), the less uncertainty that they will experience. Furthermore,
the researchers found that the less uncertainty people feel, the less likely they
will be to dissolve a relationship with another.
Axiom 1 of URT states that “given the high level of uncertainty present at the
onset of the entry phase, as the amount of verbal communication between
strangers increases, the level of uncertainty for each interactant in the
relationship will decrease. As uncertainty is further reduced, the amount of
verbal communication will increase” (Berger & Calabrese, 1975, p. 102). This
means that both persons have to verbally communicate in order to reduce
uncertainty or increase predictability about each other. More verbal
communication means easier prediction of another person‟s behavior, which in
turn means more verbal communication since a person can predict another‟s
reaction. The reduction of uncertainty helps users decide if they want to initiate
a relationship with the other person; similarities between the two users should
decrease uncertainty, and the decrease in uncertainty should subsequently
increase liking (Berger & Calabrese, 1975).
Although online communication can lack face-to-face characteristics, such as
physical proximity, frequent interaction and physical appearance, people in an
online setting can still reduce their uncertainty about one another. None of the
theories of relational development, according to Parks and Floyd, requires
physical proximity and frequent interaction for relational development. They
may be helpful, but they are not necessary for reducing uncertainty or the
reward/cost ratio. Walther (1992) suggested that without nonverbal cues,
communicators adapt their relationship behaviors to the remaining cues
available in CMC, such as content and linguistic strategies, as well as chronemic
and typographic cues (Walther & Tidwell, 1995). Park, Jin and Jin (2009) also
argued that individuals‟ strategies to reduce uncertainties in face-to-face
interaction can be applied in computer-mediated settings such as social network
sites as well. However, many Facebook relationships are already existing face-
to-face relationships and self-disclosure has already occurred. Therefore, we
speculate that the predictability should be high.
Self-Disclosure, Predictability and Trust
Self-disclosure facilitates developing close relationships and mutual trust
(Altman & Taylor, 1973). Trust has not been extensively studied in a computer-
mediated environment though it is associated with self-disclosure in face-to-face
interactions (Kim, Lee, & Park, 2006). A survey of individuals in exclusively
online romantic relationships found that both the length of time the relationships
had lasted, as well as the amount of time spent communicating with one‟s
partner, were significantly associated with perceived attitude similarity,
commitment, intimacy, and trust (Anderson & Emmers-Sommer, 2006).
Wheeless and Grotz (1977) found a positive correlation between trust and the
amount, depth, and honesty of self-disclosure. Meeting face-to-face prior to
communicating online helps to promote trust (Zheng et al., 2002). Research has
also shown that those who are more trusting in real life have a harder time
trusting online (Feng, Lazar, & Preece, 2004). However, as Kim, Lee and Park
(2006) discussed, trust does not increase linearly with the increase in self-
disclosure. The most important element in developing trust about another is the
overall predictability of that individual (Rempel, Holmes, & Zanna, 1985).
According to the Rempel et al. model, predictability is actually one of the
dimensions of trust. We self-disclose to a person if we can predict their
behavior. Prediction is the ability to forecast one‟s own and others‟ behavioral
choices. Therefore, we speculate that the predictability of another person‟s
behavior will be a mediator between self-disclosure and trust in Facebook
H1: Predictability will mediate the relationship between self-disclosure and trust
in Facebook relationships.
Again, since researchers cannot agree about the relationship between self-
disclosure and trust, we posited a research question:
RQ2: How is self-disclosure on Facebook related to interpersonal trust that we
feel toward the person to whom we disclose on Facebook?
In order to test the hypothesis and research questions, we employed
confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and structural equation modeling (SEM). The
first model tested earlier findings that attraction drives self-disclosure (Ramirez
et al., 2002; Collins & Miller, 1994; Kim, Lee, & Park, 2006) and self disclosure
leads to a higher level of interpersonal trust in the person that we disclose to.
The second model tested the hypothesis that self-disclosure leads to
interpersonal attraction (Tidwell, & Walther, 2002; Derlega et al., 1993;
McAllister & Bregman, 1983), and self-disclosure is an outcome of trust. We
have also included predictability as a mediator variable in each model.
The participants were 243 undergraduate students enrolled in introductory
communication courses at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, USA. The
participants represented various academic disciplines. The sample consisted of
120 (49%) men and 123 (51%) women with an average age of 20 (ranging
from 18 to 36 years). The largest number of participants were sophomores
(36%) and Caucasians (91%).
Procedures and Measurement
The pre-condition to participate in the paper-pencil survey was to be an active
Facebook user. Participation was voluntarily and students received extra credit.
Previously, a small group of seven college students filled out a pre-test
questionnaire to check for the face and content validity. Most measures were
Likert scales, and reliabilities are reported as Cronbach‟s alpha. The study was
approved by the Institutional Review Board at Louisiana State University.
Students were asked to report how many close friends they have and what
modes of communication they use (face-to-face, email, MSN chat, ICQ, Skype,
Facebook, Cell phone/Text messaging) on a 7-point scale where 7 represents
“regular” use, and 1 “never use”. We asked how many Facebook friends they
have and how many hours they spend on Facebook on an average day. We
asked them a variety of well-established instruments to measure social
attraction, breadth and depth of self-disclosure, predictability, and interpersonal
trust in an individual they disclose most on Facebook.
Social attraction. Social attraction towards the individual was measured using
the “social attraction” component of McCroskey and McCain (1974)
Interpersonal Attraction Scale (IAS). A number of researchers have reported
high internal reliability coefficients for various dimensions (Ayres, 1989; Brandt,
1979; Krikorian, Lee, Chock, Harms, 2000; McCroskey & McCain, 1974;
Wheeless, Frymier, & Thompson, 1992). Respondents answered six questions
(i.e. “He/she just wouldn‟t fit into my circle of friends,” “I think he/she could be
a friend of mine”) on a 5-point Likert-type scale (5 = strongly agree, and 1 =
strongly disagree). The items measured respondents‟ social attraction to one
individual that they talked with the most on Facebook. The Cronbach‟s alpha
reliability coefficient for this measure was .76 (M = 4.42, SD = .62).
Self-disclosure. Self-disclosure to a Facebook and face-to-face friend was
measured by Parks & Floyd‟s (1996) scale that is developed based on Altman
and Taylor‟s (1973) scales of self-disclosure, measuring depth and breadth.
Although other scales exist (e.g., Joinson, 2001; Wheeless & Grotz, 1976) to
measure self-disclosure in both an online and offline environment, we have used
the Parks and Floyd (1996) breadth and depth scale because it captures
disclosure to another person more directly than the Wheeless and Grotz (1976)
study. The Parks and Floyd (1996) scale is also topic-free and was used in
numerous studies (e.g., Craig et al., 2007; Yum & Hara, 2005) to measure self-
Participants were asked to complete these items based on their interactions with
one individual they talked with the most on Facebook. Both measures use a five-
point Likert-type scale, and they were originally developed to measure self
disclosure online (Craig et al, 2007). The breadth measure consisted of five
items, and it was used to assess the range of topics partners discussed in these
relationships (i.e. “Our communication ranges over a wide variety of topics,”
“Our communication covers issues that go well beyond the topic of any one
particular application”). The depth measure contained eight items, including: “I
usually tell this person exactly how I feel,” and “I feel quite close to this
person.” The Cronbach‟s alpha coefficient for this instrument was .82 for depth
(M = 3.77, SD = .75) and .83 for breadth (M = 4.00, SD = .80).
Predictability. Perceptions of predictability and understanding are important
aspects of Uncertainty Reduction Theory (Berger & Calabrese, 1975; Parks &
Adelman, 1983). We examined these perceptions using Parks and Floyd‟s scale
(1996) (e.g., “I am very uncertain about what this person is really like,”) that
measures predictability of an online friend‟s behavior. To assess predictability
five items were used, and they included statements such as, “I am very
uncertain about what this person is really like,” and “I can usually tell what this
person is feeling inside.” Responses were measured on a five-point Likert type
scale where 5 = strongly agree, and 1 = strongly disagree. The Cronbach‟s
alpha reliability coefficient for this measure was .79 (M = 3.95, SD = .82). Two
items were reversely coded.
Trust. Interpersonal trust was measured using the Individualized Trust Scale
(Wheeless & Grotz, 1977), which is a 7-point semantic differential scale. The
scale assesses the perception of individuals by showing them pairs of adjectives:
trustworthy-untrustworthy, deceptive-candid, confidential-divulging, exploitive-
benevolent, safe-dangerous, not deceitful-deceitful, tricky-straightforward,
respectful-disrespectful, inconsiderate-considerate, honest-dishonest, unreliable-
reliable, faithful-unfaithful, insincere-sincere, and careful-careless (M = 5.69, SD
= .98, Cronbach‟s alpha = .92).
On average, students reported having 455 Facebook friends, which is actually a
minimum number since most students wrote “at least” and then a certain
number of friends. The maximum number of Facebook friends was 2,000 and
the minimum 4. Students said they had 7 “close” friends on average.
Interestingly they report communicating with their close friends through cell
phone most often (on a scale from 1-7, 7 being a „regular‟ mode of
communication, M = 6.48, SD = .88), following by face-to-face conversations (M
= 6.11, SD = 1.39), Facebook (M = 4.08, SD = 1.85), e-mail (M = 2.21, SD =
1.41) and lastly IM use (M = 2.07, SD = 1.68). On average, students spend 60
minutes per day on Facebook (M = 59. 95, SD = 55. 28). The exploratory data
analysis revealed a positively skewed, leptokurtic distribution (Shapiro-Wilk's =
.86, p = .000; kurtosis = 2.26; skewness = 1.41). This, however, will not
influence our data analysis as we use these variables for informative purposes
Prior to testing the relationship between social attraction, self-disclosure,
predictability and trust, we conducted an exploratory factor analysis to see how
the items load on these four constructs. The results of the exploratory factor
analysis (EFA) showed that some factors loaded poorly on the trust and depth
dimension of self-disclosure and were removed from the model.
A structural equation modeling (SEM) analysis of 213 subjects was undertaken
using the AMOS 16.0. SEM was selected as a statistical methodology because of
its several advantages over regression modeling, including its more flexible
assumptions (particularly allowing interpretation even in the face of
multicollinearity), use of confirmatory factor analysis to reduce the
measurement error by having multiple indicators per latent variable, better
model visualization, the desirability of testing models overall rather than
coefficients individually, the ability to test models with multiple dependents, the
ability to model mediating variables, the ability to test coefficients across
multiple between-subjects groups, and ability to handle difficult data (non-
normal data, incomplete data) (Garson, 2009).
Testing the measurement model
We conducted a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) with four variables (self-
disclosure, social attraction, predictability, and trust). Although the EFA gives an
idea of dimensionality, CFA, as the name implies, essentially focuses on whether
a hypothesized factor model does or does not fit the data. Thus, CFA is a
commonly accepted method to test/confirm dimensionality (Netemeyer,
Bearden, & Sharma, 2003). Because there is no single universally accepted fit
index, a variety of indices were used to provide a comprehensive indication of
First, the chi-square test was conducted to test the fit between the sample
covariance matrix and the matrix implied by the models. A large chi-square
value and a statistically significant result (i.e., p < .05) indicate a poor fit in that
there is a substantial proportion of variance in the data not explained by the
model. As this statistic is somewhat sensitive to sample size, a second
calculation can be made that involves dividing the chi-square value by the
degrees of freedom (Kline, 1998). Although no clear-cut guideline exists, a ratio
below 3 is generally considered to be acceptable (Kline, 1998). Fit statistics
insensitive to sample size were also used, including the goodness-of-fit index.
One badness-of-fit measure (root mean square error of approximation) was
used. Values below .08 for RMSEA are generally considered to be acceptable.
The overall fit of the measurement model was good (chi-square/df = 1.57, CFI
= .94, TLI = .93, RMSEA = .06) and all correlations were significant. Items
showed convergent validity (loadings higher than .5, AVE higher than .5,
construct reliability larger than .7). The next step was to determine the
discriminant validity. Discriminant validity compares the variance extracted
estimates (AVE) from each factor with the squared interconstruct correlations
(SIC) associated with that factor. Comparing the AVE and interconstruct
correlations, we found evidence that all factors had discriminant validity.
Our RQ1 asked how much the perception of attraction influences self-disclosure
and how much the self-disclosure influences attraction. In a first model, social
attraction influences self-disclosure, and self-disclosure leads to a greater
predictability and trust. Breadth influences the depth of self-disclosure (Altman
& Taylor, 1987). We tested what Craig et al. (2007), Kim, Lee and Park (2006),
and Ramirez et al. (2002) would have suggested. Again, we employed AMOS
16.0, a covariance-based tool. Results (Figure 1) showed a good model fit.
Figure 1: Structural Equation Model of Social Attraction Influence on Self-
disclosure, Predictability and Trust (Model 1a)
The Chi-square/df ratio was 1.56. For a model with a good fit, most empirical
analyses suggest that the ratio of chi-square normalized to the degree of
freedom should not exceed 3.0 (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996). In addition, the
comparative fit index (CFI) was .94, and the Tucker-Lewis (TLI) index was .93.
The indices were well above the .90 benchmark (Hair, Black, Babin, Anderson, &
Tatham, 1998). The Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) was
.06. In the case of RMSEA, values less than .05 indicate a good fit, values as
high as .08 represent reasonable, and values ranging from .08 to .10 indicate a
mediocre fit (Byrne, 2001). Therefore, the results indicate the hypothesized
model was a good fit. Table 1 represents the significance of path coefficients for
all variables in the model. All paths were significant (p < .05). However, our
goal was to examine the strength of the relationships between social attraction,
self-disclosure, predictability and trust, so we could compare them with model 2
in which self-disclosure leads to social attraction.
Table 1 depicts very interesting findings related to the influence of social
attraction on self-disclosure, predictability and trust. A very strong relationship
(β = .80) was found between the depth dimension of self-disclosure and
predictability, which suggests that revealing private information about ourselves
to another Facebook friend is strongly related to a high certainty about another
person (how he/she feels/acts). The more information one gets about another
person, the less uncertainty he or she has. A weak relationship (β = .18) existed
between the idea that the perceptions of social attraction may drive the intimacy
of self-disclosure. However, breadth, or the number of topics one discusses on
Facebook, was moderately related to the perception of social attraction (β =
.35). We found no significant relationship between predictability and trust, which
would suggest that the predictability of someone‟s behavior does not lead us to
trust that person more.
Table 1: Summary of Path Coefficients for Relational Facebook Model 1a
However, we wanted to know if predictability is a mediator between self-
disclosure and the trust one has in a Facebook friend, as literature suggests,
and how in that case the relationship between predictability and trust would
change. As Figure 2 shows, we made predictability a mediator between the
depth of self-disclosure and trust. The new model fit the data, and its fit indices
were very similar to those in the model when predictability was not a mediator
between self-disclosure and trust. However, in this case, the relationship
between predictability and trust was also significant, so we can conclude that
the mediating model (Figure 3) better explains our data. Our hypothesis that
predictability is a mediator between the intimacy of self-disclosure and trust is
Figure 2: Structural Equation Model of Social Attraction Influence on Self-
disclosure, Predictability and Trust- Mediated Model (Model 1b)
In the second model, we tested self-disclosure‟s influence on social attraction
and trust‟s influence on self-disclosure. We tested what Tidwell and Walther
(2002), Derlega et al (1993), and McAllister and Bregman (1983) suggested.
Our model showed a good fit (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Structural Equation Model of Trust Influence on Self-disclosure and
Predictability, and Self-disclosure Influence on Social Attraction (Model 2a)
The Chi-square/df ratio was 1.86. In addition, the comparative fit index (CFI)
was .91, and the Tucker-Lewis Index (TLI) was .89. The Root Mean Square Error
of Approximation (RMSEA) was .076. All paths were significant (Table 2), except
the path between the breadth of self-disclosure and social attraction. This
suggests that the range of topics that we discuss with another person does not
necessarily lead to our perception that this other person is socially more
attractive. However, as we found in model 1, we discuss a wide range of topics
on Facebook with someone we find socially attractive. Self-disclosure may
provoke the social attraction to a greater degree (β = .30) than the social
attraction drives self-disclosure (β = .18) (in model 1). In addition people tend
to disclose to trusted people and those whose behavior they can predict. The
stronger relationship between self-disclosure, predictability and trust was,
however, found in model 1, which can better explain the relationship between
attraction, self-disclosure, predictability and trust.
Table 2: Summary of Path Coefficients for Relational Facebook Model 2a
Again, we wanted to know if predictability mediates the relationship between
self-disclosure and trust. The mediating model actually showed a similar fit to
the nonmediated, and all paths were significant. In this case, predictability again
proved to mediate the relationship between the depth of self-disclosure and
trust ( Χ2
(243)/df=1.89, CFI=.90, TLI=.89, RMSEA = .077).
Relationships develop online the same as they do offline. The appearance of
social network sites, such as Facebook.com and MySpace.com, offer new
opportunities for people to socialize, self-disclose and reduce uncertainties about
one another. It also offers a new possibility for communication researchers to
test how interpersonal communication theories work in a new setting. Walther
(1994) found that when controlling for anticipated interaction, CMC relational
development and face-to-face relational development are quite similar. Craig et
al. (2007) examined the role of perceived similarity and social attraction on self-
disclosure on Facebook and found that perception of attraction influenced self-
disclosure patterns. Since some findings (Derlega et al., 1993; McAllister, &
Bregman, 1983) on face-to-face relationship development and CMC relationship
development (Walther, 1992; 1996) suggest that self-disclosure drives
attraction, Craig et al. (2007) proposed to explore the possibility of a reverse
relationship between these variables in a CMC setting. They also urged for the
expansion of the model so that it includes other variables.
The purpose of this research was to test how one Facebook user‟s social
attraction influences another person‟s self-disclosure and perception of trust in
that individual. Our research was inspired by a Craig et al. (2007) study, and we
expanded their model by adding predictability as a mediating variable between
self-disclosure and trust.
We tested two models. The first model supports findings that the perception of
attraction drives self-disclosure (Craig et al., 2007; Kim, Lee, & Park, 2006;
Ramirez et al., 2002; Collins & Miller, 1994), especially the number of topics we
discuss with somebody on Facebook. Self-disclosure also leads to higher levels
of interpersonal trust in the person we disclose to. The second model finds
support that greater self-disclosure leads to the perception of interpersonal
attraction (Tidwell, & Walther, 2002; Derlega et al., 1993; McAllister, &
Bregman, 1983), but only if the topics disclosed are intimate. Our first model
(Figures 2 and 3) fits data much better than the second model (Figures 4 and
The relationship between the depth of self-disclosure or the intimacy of self-
disclosure and trust is actually mediated by predictability. In the first model,
predictability fully mediates the relationship between self-disclosure and trust.
This supports Uncertainty Reduction Theory, which suggests that the more we
disclose, the less uncertainty that we feel toward the individual.
Although the path coefficients between social attraction and the depth of self-
disclosure are significant in both models, as our results suggest, the depth of
self-disclosure or the intimacy of the information that we reveal to our Facebook
friend can provoke social attraction to a greater degree than social attraction
can the depth of self-disclosure. This means that on Facebook we tend to like
people to whom we self-disclose our intimate information. The key, however, is
not in the quantity of self-disclosure (breadth) that makes us like our Facebook
friends, but in the quality (depth). We tell our personal secrets to those that we
like. The key seems to be in the intimacy of self-disclosure, the quality and not
the quantity. This supports Altman and Taylor (1973) and Social Penetration
Theory, which suggest that changes in the outer layer (breadth) minimally
change the relationships.
Our findings thus support researchers (Ramirez et al., 2002; Collins & Miller,
1994; Kim, Lee , & Park, 2006) who claimed that perceptions of attraction drive
self-disclosure and partially supports researchers (Tidwell & Walther, 2002;
Derlega et al., 1993; McAllister & Bregman, 1983) that say greater self-
disclosure leads to perceptions of interpersonal attraction.
We have also found a significant relationship between the depth of self-
disclosure, predictability of another person‟s behavior and trust in that
individual. Although many nonverbal cues are absent on Facebook, its users still
perceive a high predictability of their Facebook friends‟ behavior. The reason
may be the fact that Facebook relationships are usually existing face-to-face
relationships and self-disclosure has already occurred. Facebook users have very
little uncertainty about the behavior of the person to whom they intimately self-
disclose to. They self-disclose to persons that they can predict the thoughts,
feelings, or behaviors of. This leads to trust in that individual. People tend to
disclose to trusted partners. All this supports Uncertainty Reduction Theory that
was developed to explain the uncertainty reduction in face-to-face relationships.
“As the amount of verbal communication between strangers increases, the level
of uncertainty for each interactant in the relationship will decrease. As
uncertainty is further reduced, the amount of verbal communication will
increase” (Berger & Calabrese, 1975, p. 102).
By disclosing on Facebook, users not only find other individuals socially more
attractive, but they can predict their attitudes, values, and beliefs. Predictability
is one of the basic premises of Uncertainty Reduction Theory. Predictability is
related to uncertainty in both Facebook and in a face-to-face context, and the
more uncertainty that existed in the relationship, the less trust also existed. This
supports Dainton and Aylor ( 2001) who found support for trust as “a potent
means for reducing relational uncertainty” (p. 183). Walther (1996) also found
that the CMC relational development and face-to-face relational development
are quite similar. Individuals, as do Facebook users, adapt their communication
behavior in limited-cue environments, utilizing whatever mechanisms are
available for gathering information and reducing uncertainty about partners
(Tidwell & Walther, 2002). Our findings support Uncertainty Reduction Theory –
the more Facebook users talk, the less uncertainty they experience (Axiom 1)
and are able to like each other more (Axiom 7).
However, not all online communities resemble Facebook features. Future
researchers should examine the same models in different online contexts. They
could test the same models in a face-to-face context and compare how
relationships develop when nonverbal cues are present. We could also test if
there are cultural differences in self-disclosure: how much do the members of
individualistic cultures (such as the United States) disclose on Facebook versus
the members of collectivistic cultures (e.g. China). According to Yum and Hara
(2006), self-disclosure in individualistic cultures is seen as more positive,
reduces uncertainty about others and increases interpersonal trust. For Koreans,
self-disclosure was inversely associated with trust, whereas it was a non-factor
for the Japanese. Are Social Penetration Theory and Uncertainty Reduction
Theory culturally specific? Years ago it was noted that research on new
technology was “data rich but theory poor” (Steinfield & Fulk, 1990, p.13), and
this statement holds true with respect to research on online communities and
social networks today.
This study has several limitations. First, we used a convenient sample that
consisted of students who were enrolled in communication classes. Second, we
collected data on students asking them to think about the Facebook friend that
they talk to most often on Facebook. We can not generalize our findings and
claim that their social attraction to a Facebook friend is a result of their self-
disclosure on Facebook. Our SEM model can only point in that direction. The
same relationships should be tested in a different environment, while controlling
for other variables that might influence the relationships between variables.
Longitudinal studies should be conducted to establish a causal relationship
between social attraction and self-disclosure, self-disclosure and predictability,
and predictability and trust. However, our study brings some new insights into
how traditional communication theories, such as Social Penetration Theory and
Uncertainty Reduction Theory, could be applied in a computer-mediated setting.
It also suggests that we should integrate new theories, such as Social
Processing Information, into our studies in order to get a better picture of
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Louisiana State University
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