Ironic humor on social media as participatory boundary work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the use of irony for boundary work in social media. It suggests that the combination of the polysemy inherent to ironic humor and new decontextualized digital environments entails greater potential for misinterpretation, thus turning humorous interactions into segregating tools. Using the case of left-wing mockery of a far-right-wing group in Israel, I trace the ways in which online irony serves as a means for social consolidation and differentiation. Findings indicate that the combination of medium (Facebook), keying (ironic humor), and content (social divides) works to empower one group and marginalize the other, potentially deepening existing social gaps. In addition, I show how this triangle leads to the construction of a new overarching social division between intellect (associated with left-wingers) and physicality (associated with right-wingers). Finally, I discuss the implications of social divides for our understanding of relations between irony and power structures in digital environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-749
Number of pages21
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/ or publication of this article: This research was supported by The Hofman fellowship, the president’s scholarship, Smart institution, and the Brenda Danet scholarship – The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • Boundary work
  • Facebook
  • Israeli–Palestinian conflict
  • collective identity
  • context collapse
  • ironic humor
  • social media


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