Social media, in particular microblogging services, are often used to rally around shared values (Zappavigna, 2011). Twitter, a prominent microblogging service, allows users to post character-constrained messages (tweets) to the Internet, for example: ‘ #coffee is the reason I wake up in the morning’ . Coffee is a surprisingly common topic with users tweeting about their morning ‘cup of java’, sometimes even appending an image of the beverage before it is consumed. Such ‘Coffeetalk’ (Gaudio, 2003) is an example of the social power of iconisation: the process by which interpersonal meanings are condensed and ideational meaning is correspondingly discharged (J. R Martin, 2008). In other words, coffeetweets have less to do with actual coffee and more to do with the interpersonal bonds that a reinforced by talking about coffee (a function seen also in discourses about wine and chocolate). This chapter considers coffeetalk from a social semiotic perspective attempting to understand the iconized bond that is negotiated when users tweet about their coffee consumption. I draw upon the concept of ‘coupling’ (collocations of evaluation and ideation) (Martin, 2000, Zappavigna et al. 2008, Knight, 2010, Zhao, 2010) to understand how these bonds are construed in language. In so doing I focus on Twitter ‘hashtags’, a linguistic marker realized by the # symbol used as a form of metadata, usually to indicate the topic of a tweet. By considering the various functions of hashtags in relation to coupling, I show how they can be used to indicate the bond around which users are aligning. Two identities enacted via this affiliation process are considered: the Coffee Connoisseur and the Coffee Addict.
I definitely fall into the addict category!