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Conference Proceeding

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This paper examined the anonymous r/SuicideWatch subreddit, a part of the popular anonymous message board, Reddit, to better understand disclosure in anonymous online spaces. r/SuicideWatch takes an ambiguous stance on suicide, neither condoning nor condemning it, thus creating a space where users are often affirmed in pro-suicide beliefs. This study utilized a thematic analysis to consider the semantic, latent, and cultural themes of r/SuicideWatch to better understand what was taking place on the website as users processed ideas that are often culturally taboo. Analysis of dialogue that included phrases like “does anyone else” or “me too” suggests that users seek a shared human experience among other users to discuss suicide. However, the presence of groupthink (Janis, 1972) may indicate that users do not seek real dialogue but rather that they may utilize r/SuicideWatch as a safe space to explore these challenging ideas and engage in fantasy exploration where they will be validated. Also notable was the heavy presence of intrapersonal communication as posters failed to interact with one another even as they replied to posts; the dialogue they shared lacked interaction with other users and appeared to be primarily for their own benefit. This may suggest that users utilize r/SuicideWatch as a means to process their own experiences and ideas rather than to interact with the ideas of others. This in-depth look at r/SuicideWatch is an important part of a much larger conversation about anonymous online communication and the interaction that takes place there.


Presented at National Communication Association Annual Convention:

Dunbar, B. (2019, November) Intrapersonal Groupthink and Online Disclosure: A Thematic Analysis of Reddit’s r/SuicideWatch. Paper presented at the National Communication Association Annual Convention, Baltimore, MD.