Emotional labour in digital diplomacy: perceptions and challenges for European diplomats

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Social media are increasingly important tools in diplomacy. Diplomats are expected to use social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to communicate with each other and with both domestic and international publics. This form of communication involves displaying positive emotions to generate attention in a competitive information environment. Emotions are essential to managing perceptions, conveying signals and safeguarding state reputation in traditional diplomacy. Commercial demands of online performance however activate new dimensions and challenges in the management of emotions in diplomacy. As digital disinformation and populist campaigns have transgressed the boundaries of domestic public debate, diplomats must also display emotional restraint to contain and counter such influence. This article analyses how diplomats perceive demands of digital diplomacy and how emotions are engaged in their efforts to perform competently both online and offline. The study draws on field work and interviews with 13 European diplomats as well as document analysis of handbooks and training material used to transfer ‘emotional communication skills’ to Swedish diplomats. The study findings suggest that demands of digital diplomacy are challenging traditional enactments of ‘the good diplomat’. In addition to the tensions between outreach and countering communication practices, the emotional labour in digital diplomacy extends beyond what we see on social media. Diplomats perceive the expectations of constant performance online to at times conflict with their professional role offline.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEmotions and Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023 Feb 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science
  • Media and Communications


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