Avoiding conflict and minimising exposure: Face-work on Twitter

Michael James Walsh, Stephanie Alice Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-680
Number of pages17
JournalConvergence: the international journal of research into new media technologies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021


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