This work has come from a study conducted with Kaitlin Costello and Ashlee Edwards that focused on how online forum users disclose information that could be potentially harmful to them in the course of their discussions. The study considered two forums (subreddits) related to drug use, r/trees and r/opiates, on the popular discussion platform Reddit.

Online Disclosure of Incriminating Information

Patterns of Risky Information Behavior in Two Drug Forums


Although people disclose illicit activities such as drug use online, we currently know little about what information people choose to disclose and share or whether there are differences in behavior depending on the illicit activity being disclosed. This exploratory mixed-methods study examines how people discuss and disclose the use of two different drugs—marijuana and heroin—in the popular online forum Reddit. In this study hermeneutic content analysis is employed in order to describe the type of comments people make in forums dedicated to discussions about illicit drugs. With inductive analysis, seven categories of comments were identified: disclosure, instruction and advice, culture, community norms, moralizing, legality, and banter. Our subsequent quantitative analysis indicates that although the amounts of disclosure are similar in each subreddit, there are more instances of instruction and advice in discussions about opiates, and more examples of banter in comments about marijuana use. In fact, both subreddits have high rates of banter. We argue that banter fosters disclosure in both subreddits, and that banter and disclosure are linked with information seeking behaviors in online forums. This work has implications for future explorations of disclosure online and for public health interventions aimed at disseminating credible information about drug use to at-risk individuals.

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Privacy and Oversharing Online

A Look at 21st Century Trust

This talk was given at the Carolina Science Cafe on 7 September, 2016, sponsored by Sigma Xi and Top of the Hill Back Bar.

Here is the marketing blurb and materials from the talk itself:

"What makes you feel safe exposing personal information online? You may reconsider what, how, and with whom you exchange information on the web after the next Science Cafe. John Martin, doctoral student at the UNC School of Information and Library Science will lead a discussion about self-incrimination, trust, and risk in online drug forums."

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‘Dude… I Zone Out Like That All the Time’

Banter as Phatic Communication in the Context of Online Discussion Forums Focused on Illicit Behavior

This talk was presented at the ASIS&T SIG-SI Symposium in St. Louis, Missouri on 7 November 2015.


In this paper, we argue that banter is highly prevalent in these particular subreddits because it acts as a proxy for similarity assessment, which has been identified as a central component of relevance judgements in other online discussion forums. These assessments allow users to identify with other posters, creating a common bond group that is strengthened by humor. Banter, jokes, and other irreverent comments&emdash;which are often discarded or left unanalyzed in depth in other, similar studies of online discussions&emdash;therefore help to provide a foundation for other information behaviors that occur in these subreddits, such as the disclosure of personally incriminating information.

Disclosure Research - John D. Martin III