When Friends Who Talk Together Stalk Together: Online Gossip as Metacommunication

Graham M. Jones, Bambi B. Schieffelin, Rachel E. Smith

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Drawing on instant messaging (IM) conversations recorded between 2006 and 2009, this chapter analyzes American teenagers' normative assessments of peers' online practices. These assessments do not take the form of reflexively elaborated metadiscourses, but rather emerge through and within metacommunicative gossip, i.e., morally motivated stories about others' online communication. In particular, it concentrates on gossip conducted via IM about communication on the social networking site Facebook. Such gossip is not only metacommunicative; it is also metasemiotic insofar as participants incorporate materials from one media channel into another, drawing on evidence gathered by "stalking", "lurking", and "creeping" on Facebook to constitute moral assessments of others' online activity. This account shows that Facebook-an affectively charged arena of self-display and mutual scrutiny in which participants construct desire and build alliances through strategies of concealment and revelation-is a powerful catalyst for metacommunicative talk.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationDigital Discourse
    Subtitle of host publicationLanguage in the New Media
    PublisherOxford University Press
    ISBN (Electronic)9780199919321
    ISBN (Print)9780199795437
    StatePublished - Jan 19 2012


    • Adolescents
    • Facebook
    • Gossip
    • IM
    • Instant messaging
    • Metacommunication
    • Multimodality
    • Reported speech
    • Social networking sites
    • Teenagers

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities


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