“I Love You But I Disagree”: Politeness and Politics in Computer-Mediated Discourse
In this paper we explore the possibility of new politeness paradigms in computer -mediated discourse on Facebook. Specifically, we examine the discoursal expectations, linguistic catalysts for ‘face-threatening acts’, and mitigations of opinions to maintain ‘face’ in discourse about politics. The present study addresses the gap in the literature concerning the relationship between politeness theory and discourse about politics (defined as any conversation about governmental policies and figures and/or controversial social issues) in online communication. Following Brown and Levinson (1987), Wierzbicka (1991), and Herring (2004), we analyze 10 Facebook wall posts containing discourse about politics for norms of linguistic appropriateness, concepts of ‘face’, and other sociopragmatic aspects. An analysis of these data suggests that the concept of ‘face’ is especially important for Facebook, where real names are typically preserved and relationships between interlocutors can be altered based on the conversation at hand. This study is a first step towards analyzing the relationship between politeness theory, discourse about politics, and computer-mediated discourse. Additionally, it has important implications for understanding the constantly changing interpersonal relationships in today’s increasingly socioculturally divers e, globalized, and digitally-savvy society.