Social visibility and the gifting of digital goods

Jameson K M Watts, Yotam Shmargad

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


One of the defining features of online social networks is that users' actions are visible to other users. In this paper, we argue that such social visibility has a detrimental e.ect on users' willingness to gift digital goods. The gift giving process often generates substantial anxiety, and social visibility exacerbates this anxiety to the point that it can deter gifting altogether. To study the e.ect of social visibility on the decision to gift, we analyze a unique dataset from a large online social network that o.ers users the option of buying a digital gifting service. We find that purchase rates of the service increased with the number of social ties that users kept on the network, but decreased with the extent to which those ties were tied to each other. We argue that the latter e.ect is due to the fact that, when a user's ties are tied themselves, any gift sent between the user and one tie is visible to their mutual contacts. This argument is bolstered by a stronger negative e.ect of social visibility for users with larger, less intimate, and categorically diverse networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCOSN 2015 - Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on Online Social Networks
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781450339513
StatePublished - Nov 2 2015
Event3rd ACM Conference on Online Social Networks, COSN 2015 - Palo Alto, United States
Duration: Nov 2 2015Nov 3 2015


Other3rd ACM Conference on Online Social Networks, COSN 2015
CountryUnited States
CityPalo Alto


  • Digital gifts
  • Privacy
  • Social networks
  • Social risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Social visibility and the gifting of digital goods'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this