Friend, Ally, or Rival? Twitter Diplomacy as “Technosocial” Performance of National Identity

Saif Shahin, Q. Elyse Huang


Drawing on the constructivist tradition in international relations, we examine the influence of national identity—or how a nation views itself in relation to other nations—on the tweeting practices of its diplomatic missions. Our analysis focuses on the use of Twitter by U.S. missions in Britain, India, and China over a four-month period brimming with diplomatic activity: June–September 2018. We find that not only do the three U.S. missions use Twitter in vastly different ways, but that their tweeting practices reflect and reproduce the specific identities the United States professes vis-à-vis these nations: a friend to Britain, an ally to India, and a rival to China. We argue that (1) Twitter is an emergent “technosocial” arena that enables nations to perform their identities online and (2) different national identities—friend, ally, and rival—derive their meanings in and through such practices. In addition, we distinguish a variety of tweeting practices and their symbolic significance in terms of national identity performance.


Twitter, public diplomacy, national identity, constructivism, United States, Britain, India, China

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