Disclosing Beyond the Dyad: How People Reveal a Concealable Stigmatised Identity Online to Reduce Stigmatisation

Douglas, H. M. (Macquarie University), Eiler, B. A. (Nottingham Trent University, UK), Kallen, R. W. (Macquarie University)

Individuals living with a concealable stigmatized identity (CSI) face decisions whether to conceal or reveal their identities in their daily lives. A CSI can be hidden but may be socially devaluing if revealed (e.g. LGBTQIA+ identity). Research on the outcomes of living with a CSI have demonstrated the negative impact that concealing can have on self-esteem, depressive symptoms, and social relationships. Individuals disclose these potentially stigmatizing identities for intrapersonal, dyadic, and social contextual reasons. While extant research has examined the intra- and inter-personal outcomes of sharing a CSI, less is known how and why individuals disclose beyond the dyad to bring awareness towards their identities and reduce stigma. With the advent of social media movements such as #MeToo, many individuals are choosing to reveal their identities to a wide audience. Therefore, this research utilised natural language processing and network analysis of language used in Tweets with the hashtags #WhyIDidntReport, #MeToo, #TransAwarenessWeek, #Depression, and #Bipolar to understand the reasons why people disclose online. This naturalistic data provides real-world information about the lived experiences of individuals with a CSI and allows researchers and support providers a greater understanding of the unique and previously unspoken needs of those living with a CSI.

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