Self Disclosure – How Much Should You Share Online?

It may seem obvious, but let’s start with a simple definition of self disclosure so that we’re on the same page. Self disclosure is more than just sharing information about yourself with others. To self disclose is to share information that people would not normally know.

This last statement is key. Especially when you share information online (whether through your video blog, Twitter, Facebook, or your website). There are two broad groups of people when it comes to self disclosure. Which one applies most closely to you?

1. I share whatever comes to mind online without giving it much thought.

2. I share very little online. I’m afraid I will share the wrong thing.

In the first instance, sharing too much can lead to embarrassment, conflicts with friends and colleagues or even the loss of a job. In the second instance, sharing very little prevents connecting with others online and developing an online presence – something that is becoming increasingly important.  It is much better to come up with a strategy for managing your self disclosure so that you know exactly what you want to share and why.

One way of developing such a strategy is a modification of a technique called the “Johari Window” (named after Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham who originally created it). The Johari Online Window divides aspects of yourself into four different categories: “Open”, “Blind”, “Hidden” and “Unknown”. Each pane refers to an aspect of yourself seen from an online perspective.

Johari Window

Known to SelfUnknown to Self
Others KnowOPEN PANE

I know these things about myself as do others.

(Examples: Your physical appearance in your online photo, your occupation, hobbies, the city you live in.) Note: if you share very little online some people may not even know these things.

I don’t know these things about myself, but others do.
(Examples: I come across as intelligent/silly/whimsical/arrogant, etc. in many of my vlogs/blogs but do not realize it.)
Others Do Not KnowHIDDEN PANE

I know these things about myself, other people do not.(Examples: Things you specifically choose to keep private. Secret wishes and dreams, sexual fantasies, failures, thoughts and judgments about others.)

I don’t know these things about myself, nor do others. (Examples: Unexplored talents and aspects of yourself that you are not aware of.)

Make four squares on a pad of paper that roughly match the diagram above. Now, thinking of your online presence, review the list of adjectives below and place them in one of the first two panes (Open Pane or Hidden Pane). Also include words or aspects of yourself that are not in this list as they occur to you. Move quickly, go with your first instincts.


Any of the adjectives which you are uncertain about, place in the Unknown Pane. These may be attributes you possess that you are unaware of.

  • Review the attributes in your hidden pane. Are there any aspects that you wish more people knew about you online? Circle them.
  • Review your open quadrant. Are there any aspects of yourself that you wish less people knew about you online? Put squares around these.

Brainstorm ways that you can move the circled items to your open quadrant and the squared items to the hidden quadrant. For example you may consider yourself witty but not allow others the chance to see that side online. What could you share that would exemplify this?

For any word that you put a square around, recall what was going through your mind when you shared that unwanted item. Many people get into trouble when they combine drinking with online activities. If this applies to you, consider making it more difficult to access your social media accounts under those circumstances. Otherwise, just being mindful of what you write and reviewing your list for a few days will go a long way to helping you choose your online self disclosure rather than it being an accident.

If you would like to fill out the other two quadrants to a greater degree, I highly recommend visiting this free website which will allow you to save a link to your word selections and receive feedback from friends and family as to how they see you. You can then further hone your self disclosure by either enhancing or diminishing qualities that you were not aware of. Humbling, but worth it!

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