Online/offline self‐disclosure to offline friends and relational outcomes in a diary study: The moderating role of self‐esteem and relational closeness

Authors:
Kenichi Ito, Wen‐Qiao Li, Haojie Gao, Qilin Chen, Liman Man Wai Li
Published Online:
26 May 2020
DOI:
10.1002/ijop.12684

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Previous work suggests that the experiences of online and offline self‐disclosure are heterogeneous among individuals. Yet little work has been done to identify the moderating role of individual characteristics and pre‐existing relationship characteristics on the diverse relational outcomes. The present study using a 7‐day diary design examined whether individuals' self‐esteem level and relational closeness would moderate the relationships between online and offline self‐disclosure to offline friends and two relational outcomes, that is, relationship satisfaction and trust in friendships. The analyses on 686 diary responses from 98 participants revealed that offline self‐disclosure generally predicted greater relationship satisfaction and trust in friendships, whereas the role of online self‐disclosure was not statistically significant. More importantly, self‐esteem moderated the pattern associated with offline self‐disclosure but not that with online self‐disclosure. Specifically, offline self‐disclosure predicted greater benefits to people with lower self‐esteem relative to people with higher self‐esteem. Moreover, pre‐existing relational closeness moderated the relationship between offline self‐disclosure and trust in friendships such that casual friendships benefited more from offline self‐disclosure than close friendships did. The present study highlights the importance of personal characteristics and relationship characteristics in understanding the heterogeneous relational influence of different communication modes.

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