To you who (I think) are listening: Imaginary audience and impression management on Facebook.

G. Ranzini, Elles Hoek

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Users of Social Network Sites (SNS) use the networks to share content and information about themselves. In particular for “nonymous” SNS, such as Facebook, profiles are connected to real names and appearances: this increases the connection between online and offline identities and the relevance of audiences to the information users share.
This can lead users to feel as though they are under someone's constant observation, which can have consequences on how they present themselves on the platform. In this paper, we explore how the perception of an imaginary audience, i.e. the “others” adolescents perceive to be as concerned with themselves as they are, can inform the impression management strategies of adult Facebook users. Based on a Dutch empirical sample, and through a hierarchical regression, we explore the relationship of imaginary audience to impression management (both content-based, such as self-censorship, and audience-based, such as audience restriction). We also investigate the roles of privacy concerns, self-monitoring, age and gender on the self-presentation of users.
Our results find positive effects for both imaginary audience and privacy concerns on both content and network-based impression management, while self-monitoring appears to have no effect. The age of respondents also appears to influence content-based impression management strategies, but not network-based strategies.
Our paper represents a first attempt at applying the concept of imaginary audience to an adult sample of Facebook users. As imaginary audience and privacy concerns appear to have a stronger effect on content-based, rather than audience-based impression management, more research is necessary to understand how the feeling of being observed influences the information users share about themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-235
Number of pages8
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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