Extending Impression Management Theory: The Need for Privacy vs. the Need to Express Information on Instant Messaging Apps

Tsfira Grebelsky-Lichtman, Ziv Adato, Shira Traeger


Impression management (IM) is a central assertion in interpersonal communication. There is increasing interest in exploring IM in new media. However, studies exploring IM in popular instant-messaging apps are lacking. Our main aims in the present study are to fill this gap and extend IM theory toward an innovative theoretical and analytical framework of computer-mediated communication (CMC). This study analyzed the popular instant-messaging app WhatsApp, the largest app for social chatting that has users all over the world.

We utilized a multi-variant design of quantitative and qualitative analysis, and conducted content analysis of WhatsApp profiles (n=546); an online survey of WhatsApp users (n=600); and in-depth interpersonal interviews (n=30). The findings demonstrate the structure, motivations, and communication functions of CMC IM. The proposed framework provides composite theoretical explanations, of psychological and sociological perspectives, for the IM’s conflicting motivations: the need for privacy and the need to express information. Moreover, this study delineates the effect of gender and marital status on IM through instant-messaging app. The theoretical and analytical framework develops an impression construct that both reduces and increases information, which activates synchronous and asynchronous features of instant-messaging apps, which affects interpersonal communication.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/smc.v8i1.4853


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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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