Saving Face

Let’s talk about the idiom “to save face.” It refers to the idea of protecting yourself from humiliation; perhaps you inadvertently insulted your dinner party host by implying the pot roast was less than spectacular. You might then “save face” by providing profuse compliments and helping yourself to many servings of the mediocre dish.

Believe it or not, this idiom, and my blog name, come from the same concept. Face is a term used in the social sciences to talk about your public self image and how you interact with others.

My interpretation of face, as it will be used in this blog, comes from the work of Steven Levinson and Penelope Brown in their book Politeness: Universals in language use (1987). They argue that your face, your reputation, your public relationships, are something you will work to maintain. We all have the desire to be liked by our peers, but that desire is balanced by a need for freedom. This balance guides our daily actions, and it helps us maintain both close, intimate relationships, as well as formal, distant ones. I’ll write more about this dichotomy at a later date.

However! This blog focuses on social media, more specifically, the social media needs of organizations. When I talk about face, I am talking about the organization’s face. How do you, as a group of individuals, create a coherent image (and face) for one organization? How do you blend the different needs and desires of the people who make up and organization in a way that further a singular message? How, then, do you, as an organization, interact with the community that you serve (or want to attract)?

So, Saving Face, while of course referencing the idiom, is also my way of talking about how face can be played with, maintained, and understood.


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