People often think of content they might like to share on Facebook but then decide not to post for various reasons.
What is this unshared content? Why do people decide not to post it? How much of it would people post if they could be sure that only the people they wanted to see the items would be able to see them?
Over seven days we asked eighteen Facebook users to tell us everything they thought about posting on Facebook but decided not to post. We found that they:
- most commonly chose not to share because of issues related to how they wanted to present themselves to others
- would have shared about half of the unshared items if they could have only shared them with specific people or groups of people
For the unshared items participants would have preferred to share with specific people, our participants often wanted to share with or block ambiguous groups of people. These ambiguous groups were defined by attributes or by the group members’ relationships to the content.
One participant, for example, “had tickets to an advanced screening of The Avengers and almost posted about how excited [she] was to see it using a bunch of profanity.” She would have posted the item if she could have only shared it with her friends who liked comic books and video games, but chose not to share because she didn’t clearly know her friends’ interests.
Another participant wanted to share “articles [she] read on NPR and WeArePowerShift.org – very political stuff” but wanted to block her conservative friends, including her boyfriend’s father, from viewing the items.
Groups like these would be difficult to define using Facebook’s current tools. It might be possible to improve the ability to share with such groups by providing grouping tools that targeted content based on attributes or peoples’ relationships to posts.
For more, see our full paper, “The Post that Wasn’t: Exploring Self-Censorship on Facebook.”
Manya Sleeper, Carnegie Mellon University
Rebecca Balebako, Carnegie Mellon University
Sauvik Das, Carnegie Mellon University
Amber Lynn McConahy, Carnegie Mellon University
Jason Wiese, Carnegie Mellon University
Lorrie Faith Cranor, Carnegie Mellon University