Embarrassing Exposures in Online Social Networks: An Integrated Perspective of Privacy Invasion and Relationship Bonding

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/isre.2015.0602

Online social networks greatly facilitate social exchange among friends. At times, for amusement, individuals may be targeted by friends’ playful teases, which often involve exposing individuals’ private embarrassing information, such as information that reveals their past indecent behavior, mischief, or clumsiness. Although individuals sometimes do enjoy the humor, they might also be offended by the involuntary exposure. Drawing on social exchange theory, this paper elucidates the consequences of an embarrassing exposure in online social networks. Specifically, this study examines the effects of information dissemination and network commonality on individuals’ exchange assessment as well as how this assessment shapes their behavioral responses. The results of our experiment provide strong evidence that information dissemination and network commonality jointly influence individuals’ perceived privacy invasion and perceived relationship bonding. In addition, whereas perceived privacy invasion increases transactional avoidance, it reduces approach behavior. Furthermore, whereas perceived relationship bonding impedes both transactional avoidance and interpersonal avoidance, it leads to approach behavior. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

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