Symbolic interactionism


How a person makes and enacts meaning (via interpretation) resulting from interaction.

Symbolic interactionists claim that identity and self are constituted through constant interactions with others – primarily, talk. Individuals work together to uphold preferred self-images of themselves and their conversation partners, through strategies like maintaining (or “saving”) face, collectively encouraging social norms, or negotiating power differentials and disagreements. (Marwickboyd 2011, p. 144)


A branch of symbolic interactionism that focuses on everyday life via the metaphor of the stage. Goffman argued that we wish to have our “audience” accept our presentation of our self. It includes concepts such as:




Which of these are examples of micro-celebrity vs. meme-fame?

  1. Star Wars Kid
  2. Perez Hilton
  3. Tron Guy

Micro-celebrity involves viewing friends or followers as a fan base; acknowledging popularity as a goal; managing the fan base using a variety of affiliative techniques; and constructing an image of self that can be easily consumed by others.

Micro vs Macro

[micro-celebrity techniques] resemble techniques that extremely famous people use to manage audiences on Twitter, rather than relying on formal access brokers like managers and agents to maintain the distance between themselves and fans.

this article looks at how ‘traditional’ celebrities have adopted techniques formerly characterized as ‘micro-celebrity’. We view celebrity practice as a continuum that can be practiced across the spectrum of fame rather than a schism. (Marwickboyd 2011, p. 141)


Parasocial interaction is a one-sided interpersonal relationship wherein one party knows much more about the other

While parasocial interaction is largely imaginary and takes place primarily in the fan’s mind, Twitter conversations between fans and famous people are public and visible, and involve direct engagement between the famous person and their follower. The fan’s ability to engage in discussion with a famous person de-pathologizes the parasocial and recontextualizes it within a medium that the follower may use to talk to real-life acquaintances. (Marwickboyd 2011, p. 148)

Context collapse?

Affiliation & intimacy

Souljah Boy uses the same language as his audience intimacy
performative intimacy is practice by sharing personal pictures and videos, addressing rumors, and sharing personal information (Marwickboyd 2011, p. 148)
(Strategically managed self-disclosure has been criticized as “second order intimacy” or the “illusion of intimacy”; the “life streaming” function of twitter encourages “digital intimacy”.)

1 minute think

Write a short (2-3 sentence) scenario of a tweet that demonstrates affiliation and/or intimacy.

Authenticity and sincerity

Trilling (1972) distinguishes authenticity (a display of the hidden inner life; passion and interiority) from sincerity (the opposite of hypocrisy – honesty without pretense). (Marwickboyd 2011, p. 147-149)

1 minute think

Write a short (2-3 sentence) scenario of a tweet that demonstrates authenticity and/or sincerity.

Go around

Why do so many people “quit” Twitter?

Wrap up

Dyad concepts review

In your own words describe:

  1. celebrity and microcelebrity
  2. symbolic interactionism
  3. dramaturgy
  4. parasociality
  5. authenticity (Trilling)
  6. sincerity (Trilling)