Pleasing the “bubble”: Abe Shinzō’s Strategical Self-exhibition on Facebook

Author: Marco Zappa (Ca’ Foscari University Venice, Italy)
Speaker: Marco Zappa
Topic: Language in Real and Virtual Spaces
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2020 General Session


Not only is Abe Shinzō on the way to becoming Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister in the country’s history. With more than 1 million followers on Twitter and slightly less than 600 hundred thousand fans on Facebook, he is by far the most successful Japanese political leader on social media. Commentators have described Abe’s turn to social networking services (SNS) as a “revenge” against “traditional” media against the background of a growing use of SNSs by other major Japanese political actors. At any rate, particularly through Facebook, combining text and pictures of himself on and off duty, Abe has successfully established his own mode to communicate with and “exhibit” himself to voters, citizens and the global community of netizens. This paper aims to address the following research question: on which themes and key concepts is this “presentation of the self” based? In other words, how is the Prime Minister communication staff constructing Abe’s “social” image and to which audience is this aimed? Based on Goffman’s theorization and later application of his work on the study of online social interactions, this paper illustrates the strive to ensure the consistency of Abe’s use of the SNS with previously expressed concepts and ideas (e.g., in the 2006 book “A Beautiful Country”), with the aim of pleasing the “bubble” of like-minded individuals constituting Abe’s (online) support base, and avoid issues that might possibly harm the Prime Minister’s reputation. Abe’s Facebook activity (a combination of text and pictures) during a critical time in his second tenure (2017), in which he faced cronyism allegations while coping with gaffes and scandals involving cabinet members, provided a case in point for multimedia content analysis.


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Keywords: Shinzo abe, japanese politics, social network analysis