Instagram and sustainability : how Instagram users make sense of their engagement within the sustainability context on the platform

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

Abstract: As mobile technology develops rapidly, social media has become an integral part of human daily life. One of the social media platforms that are popular nowadays is Instagram, the visual photo-sharing platform. Meanwhile, the term of sustainability also become more popular along with the growing awareness toward sustainability issues. Engagement with sustainability also happens on Instagram, as the influencers share their everyday sustainable practices and practical knowledge with their followers. There have been some critics that influencers on Instagram might encourage consumption that is not needed. This research aims to explore how Instagram users view their perspectives about sustainability as influenced by their Instagram use. To achieve this aim, I investigate how Instagram users make sense of their engagement within the sustainability context on the platform using semi-structured interviews with ten Instagram users. Applying content analysis, the findings show that all interviewees had some awareness and knowledge about sustainability before using Instagram. However, they deepen their knowledge and interest toward sustainability by following influencers on Instagram – both blogger-type influencers, and organizations or movements promoting sustainability. Further, this research demonstrates that influencers can bring positive impacts to their followers. Sustainability actions have been perceived as a huge responsibility to do, yet the interviewees claimed that the influencers have been shown through their Instagram that we can take part by doing small actions in our daily life. Besides, Instagram users have also been encouraged to engage in sustainable consumption through advertising posted by influencers. Despite criticisms that influencers might push unnecessary consumption, the findings of this research empower the idea that Instagram is capable – and from some users’ perspective, even powerful – to change someone’s perspective about sustainability. To conclude, Instagram has become a favorable platform to address sustainability issues through its influencer culture.

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