University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Tapestries of intimacy: Networked intimacies and new fathers’ emotional self-disclosure of mental health struggles

Das, Ranjana and Hodkinson, Paul (2019) Tapestries of intimacy: Networked intimacies and new fathers’ emotional self-disclosure of mental health struggles Social Media and Society.

tapestries of intimacy - for repository.pdf - Accepted version Manuscript
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (419kB) | Preview


This paper considers the ways in which new fathers use networked media to negotiate, initiate and reciprocate intimate ties with others in the context of mental health difficulties. We shed light on the fluid and cross-cutting networked intimacies (Andreassen et al, 2017) which men negotiate as they cope with their difficulties within broader contexts of silences around male mental health. A particular focus is the disclosure of their struggles to others as an affectively significant moment in the building of intimate ties, taking forward Chambers’ (2013, 2016) notion of self-disclosure as the engine that drives intimacies (see also Nicholson, 2013). As part of this, we explore the ways social media platforms and their affordances are worked with, within and against, in the emotionally fraught and liminal moment of mental health disclosure and the connections that ensue. This means we pay attention not just to the establishment of new intimate connections online, but also to the mediated shaping of existing close relationships – locating our project, at its topmost level, within mediated frameworks (Silverstone, 1999; Thompson, 1995) of interpersonal ties (Baym, 2015).

The research on which this paper is based consisted of 15 interviews with fathers who had suffered mental health difficulties after having a baby. Our overarching research question was: What role, if any, do networked media play in new fathers’ negotiations of mental health difficulties? Within this broad framework, we nested subsidiary questions around new fathers’ circumstances, support (both seeking and provision) and communication. Our focus on disclosure and intimacies in this paper connects to all of these, but particularly the last two. Following discussions of the literature and our methodology, our findings are divided into two parts. First, in intimacies, negotiated we outline how existing, and often strongly bonded, intimacies are complexified by the arrival of mental health difficulties, and how networked media are sometimes deployed as part of the negotiation of mental health disclosure within these existing relationships. Second, in intimacies, initiated we consider how and why networked media emerges to be central to initiating new intimacies centred upon either explicit or more coded forms of disclosure, and how they mediate the encountering of others’ attempts to reach out.

At the heart of our findings across these sections are the complexity and plurality of the mediated ties fathers negotiated in relation to their struggles, the powerful emotion-work that the engagement with or establishment of such connections involves, and the liminality and sometimes even invisibility of some of this emotion-work. Bringing these themes together is our use of the textile metaphor of the tapestry. First, a tapestry is a form of textile art, where threads of diverse kinds and colours are woven together, cross-cutting and overlapping. This aspect of the metaphor brings us close to the overlapping and simultaneous nature of intimacies in the contexts of these men’s lives, where old intimacies co-exist with newly unfolding ones. Second, the weaving in a tapestry is done against a strong backdrop, and this backdrop of the tapestry – the contexts of these men’s lives – is one we cannot begin to conceptualise outside of frameworks of mediation (Livingstone, 2008; Silverstone, 1999). And third, tapestries consist of what is called ‘weft-faced weaving’, where warp threads are hidden, unlike in plain cloth weaving, where both warp and weft threads are visible. As our analysis demonstrates, a good deal of the emotion-work performed in these networked intimacies is fleeting, hidden, ambiguously coded, but rarely, we suggest, absent.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Date : 2019
Copyright Disclaimer : © The Author(s) 2019. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page(
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 29 Apr 2019 11:11
Last Modified : 29 Apr 2019 11:14

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800