You have to say something but you can’t say anything: Twitter and the inability to articulate the abject

Lindsay Fellenor, Phillip Brooker

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Frank (1995) characterises traumatic experiences in terms of ‘chaos narratives’ that sit behind speech but are incommunicable because there are no words available to tell them. This points to the impossibility of representing or sharing such experiences with others. From a Kleinian perspective Minsky (1998) claims that attempts to find words for traumatic experiences are split off and projected and are thus unavailable to description. Twitter increasingly plays a role in the life of many people in the West. As a social media platform, its affordances lend to its users the capability to observe and comment in real time on anything and everything and this includes traumatic events such as terrorist bombings, earthquakes and the death that they entail. However, the central contention of this paper is that in fact it is not possible to comment on the latter type of events and that, where Tweets do engage with these events, what is revealed is a breakdown in signification. I discuss what happens around this breakdown and how it is manifest on Twitter from a psychoanalytically informed psychosocial perspective. I then extend this analysis to think about Twitter in terms of a ‘psychotic state’, to suggest that the interactive capacity of Web 2.0 and social media points to a specific type of emergent subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 23 Mar 2016
EventAffect and Social Media Symposium - UEL, London, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Mar 201623 Mar 2016


ConferenceAffect and Social Media Symposium
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom


  • affect, trauma, Twitter, fantasy


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