Sensitive Sharing on Social Media: Exploring Willingness to Disclose PrEP Usage Among Adolescent Males Who Have Sex With Males

Jeremy Birnholtz*, Ashley Kraus, Weiwei Zheng, David A. Moskowitz, Kathryn Macapagal, Darren Gergle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Self-presentation, the process by which people disclose information about themselves to others, is fundamental to online interaction and research on communication technology. Technology often mediates the self-presentation process by obscuring who is in the audience via constrained cues and opaque feed algorithms that govern the visibility of social media content. This can make it risky to disclose sensitive or potentially stigmatizing information about oneself, because it could fall into the wrong hands or be seen by an unsupportive audience. Still, there are times when it is socially beneficial to disclose sensitive information, such as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others) people expressing their identities or disclosing HIV status. Decisions about sensitive disclosure, moreover, can be even more complicated in today’s social media landscape with many platforms and audiences in play, particularly for younger users who often use many platforms. We lack a good understanding, however, of how people make these decisions. This article addresses questions about sensitive disclosure on social media through a survey study of adolescent men who have sex with men and their willingness to disclose on social media the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV prevention medication. Results suggest that perceived platform audience composition and platform features such as ephemerality play into disclosure decisions, as well as the perceived normativity of PrEP use among peers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • adolescents
  • self-presentation
  • sensitive disclosure
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'Sensitive Sharing on Social Media: Exploring Willingness to Disclose PrEP Usage Among Adolescent Males Who Have Sex With Males'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this