A bumpy ride on the information superhighway: Exploring turbulence online

Eden Litt*, Eszter Hargittai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Managing our personal information is becoming increasingly complex as people share more and more about themselves and others online. Beyond the ordinary challenges people face in disclosing information in face-to-face settings, the Internet presents additional demands users must take into account related to the size and diversity of their audience as well as the longevity and accessibility of their communication. Using survey data from a diverse group of young adults, this paper explores turbulence online, that is, the breakdown of privacy expectations that result in information spreading beyond a user's desired audience. More than a third of these young adults reported at least one turbulent encounter online ranging in tangible consequences like ending a friendship or trouble at work or school to emotional trouble like feelings of embarrassment or betrayal. Results suggest that successful privacy management online requires a combination of social and technological skills and behaviors. Findings also bring to light new questions on self- versus other-generated turbulence and broader implications for researchers, designers, and users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-529
Number of pages10
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Disclosure
  • Internet skills
  • Privacy
  • Self-monitoring
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Psychology(all)

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