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Avoiding conflict and minimising exposure: Face-work on Twitter

Walsh, M. J. and Baker, S.A. ORCID: 0000-0002-4921-2456 (2021). Avoiding conflict and minimising exposure: Face-work on Twitter. Convergence, doi: 10.1177/13548565211036797


In a context where Twitter has come under criticism for enabling and encouraging hostile communication, this article explores how users adopt a ‘Twitter face’ when navigating interactions on the platform. Extending Goffman’s observation that face-work is applicable to both immediate and mediated interaction, this article provides a novel application of face-work on Twitter. Reporting on data from an online questionnaire completed by general Twitter users, we explore how uncivil interaction is experienced on the platform and the interaction strategies users employ to protect their face. We examine how interactions on the platform can lead to a ritual break-down that generate forms of alienation arising from aggressive uses of face-work. We contend that attempts to enhance Twitter as a medium by limiting and restricting particular interactions are ultimately attempts at shaping Twitter’s affordances. In analysing user experience, our discussion considers how incivility is responded to and how the platform encourages users to engage in the avoidance components of face-work, while simultaneously inhibiting the easy adoption of its restorative dimensions. While both dimensions of face-work are vital, the downplaying of restorative aspects of face-work arguably undermines Twitter’s efforts to encourage inclusive interactions across the platform.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the author accepted manuscript of Walsh, M. J. and Baker, S.A. (2021). Avoiding conflict and minimising exposure: Face-work on Twitter. Convergence. Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). DOI:
Publisher Keywords: Face-work, Goffman, health, incivility, interaction, social media, Twitter
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
Date available in CRO: 03 Sep 2021 15:25
Date deposited: 3 September 2021
Date of acceptance: 13 July 2021
Date of first online publication: 10 August 2021
Text - Accepted Version
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