"Facebook's about to know, Karen": mobilising social media to sanction public conduct

Linda Walz, Jack B. Joyce, Natalie Flint

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This paper explores the social action of sanctioning an interlocutor’s conduct in public spaces through social media. Using membership categorisation analysis (Hester and Eglin 1997), we examine how, in offline face-to-face disputes filmed by one party, interactants deploy the name ‘Karen’ to sanction someone and threaten the transposition of the recording onto social media to impose accountability to the public at large. Our findings show how sanctioning through categorising an individual as a ‘Karen’ is interactionally achieved through framing conduct as entitled or otherwise problematic, distinguishing in-situ production of ‘Karen’ from a delivery that is perceptually unavailable to an interlocutor. We explore how social media functions as a resource to shape the ongoing encounter by orienting to the camera, and thus the online audience, as an external authority.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-160
JournalInternet Pragmatics
Issue number1
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Dec 2023


  • membership categorisation analysis
  • sanctioning
  • transgression
  • degradation ceremonies
  • accountability
  • dispute
  • Karen


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