“Peter is a dumb nut”: Status updates and reactions to them as ‘acts of positioning’ in Facebook

Brook Bolander and Miriam A. Locher

Abstract

This paper applies the theoretical concept of ‘acts of positioning’ (Davis & Harré 1990) to a qualitative and quantitative analysis of 474 status updates (SUs) taken from the Facebook Walls of twenty individuals living in Switzerland and the UK. Our aim is to analyze how individuals construct their identities through the use of language. The results show that individuals position themselves in five central ways, i.e., they stress aspects of their personality, pastime endeavors, sense of humor, work and relationship. Through a subsequent analysis of 228 reactions to status updates (RSUs), we also address how these acts are responded to, and thereby demonstrate that individuals predominantly support identity claims made in the SUs. Our paper contributes to existing research on language and identity in social network sites (SNSs), and demonstrates the fruitful application of the concept of ‘acts of positioning’.

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