The First Lady of Social Media: The Visual Rhetoric of Michelle Obama’s Twitter Images

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Michelle Obama, Twitter, Visual Rhetoric, First Ladies, Social Media and Politics

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While American first ladies have long used media to craft their image, Michelle Obama is the first contemporary first lady to use social media to promote her public persona. We use the lens of symbolic convergence theory to explore the fantasy themes incumbent in images shared through Michelle Obama’s Twitter account. Since first ladies have long been perceived as representing the American “everywoman,” understanding the fantasies built into the social media image of the first lady extends knowledge about the perception of American women more broadly. Our findings indicate that Michelle Obama’s Twitter images are strategic in that they reflect the visual themes that the media traditionally use in their coverage of first ladies. Specifically, Michelle Obama’s social media messaging portrays her as an activist mother—who espouses noncontroversial causes such as education and children’s health—and a nonpartisan figure with deep familial ties.

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Atlantic Journal of Communication, v. 26, issue 3, p. 164-179