Extending Impression Management Theory: The Need for Privacy vs. the Need to Express Information on Instant Messaging Apps

Tsfira Grebelsky Lichtman*, Ziv Adato, Shira Traeger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Impression management (IM) is a central assertion in interpersonal communication. There is increasing interest in exploring IM in new media. However, studies exploring IM in popular instant messaging apps are lacking. Our main aims in the present study are to fill this gap and extend IM theory toward an innovative theoretical and analytical framework of computer mediated communication (CMC). This study analyzed the popular instant messaging app WhatsApp, the largest app for social chatting that has users all over the world. We utilized a multi variant design of quantitative and qualitative analysis, and conducted content analysis of WhatsApp profiles (n=546); an online survey of WhatsApp users (n=600); and in depth interpersonal interviews (n=30). The findings demonstrate the structure, motivations, and communication functions of CMC IM. The proposed framework provides composite theoretical explanations, of psychological and sociological perspectives, for the IM's conflicting motivations: the need for privacy and the need to express information. Moreover, this study delineates the effect of gender and marital status on IM through instant messaging app. The theoretical and analytical framework develops an impression construct that both reduces and increases information, which activates synchronous and asynchronous features of instant messaging apps, which affects interpersonal communication.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)72-85
Number of pages14
JournalStudies in Media and Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 by the authors.


  • content analysis
  • gender
  • impression management
  • marital status
  • new media
  • visual communication


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