The representation of sustainability on social media : an ecofeminist reading of Instagram

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Social media is a part and parcel of the daily lives of most people today. From targeted advertisements to affecting the election results around the globe, social media holds tremendous power in the way it shapes narratives and the world we live in. As sustainability has become a hot topic on online platforms, it is imperative to question how it is represented. This thesis explores the representation and the power of social media in setting the discourse on sustainable living. Instagram is chosen as the platform to study since it is both a textual and a visual medium. Using hashtags, a particular community of influencers is discovered, who share their everyday sustainable practices. Using tools from digital ethnography, along with interviewing members of this online community, their representation of sustainability is examined. The analysis reveals that there is a clear gender divide in this community, as most of these influencers and their followers are female. Ecofeminist theory is used to analyze this eco-gender gap which makes itself visible on Instagram. The ethics of care which is central to ecofeminist theory is used as a lens to look at the gendered sustainable content and community on Instagram. Critical Discourse Analysis of Instagram posts reveals that most online influencers represent sustainable living as a natural way of living, away from toxins and chemicals. This is deemed good both for the women and for their children’s wellbeing. This is in line with ecofeminism which challenges the prioritization of capitalistic values of efficiency and profit maximization. Overall, it seems that the community of sustainable bloggers on Instagram sees Instagram as a platform where they, as women, are the producers of knowledge, and their knowledge holds merit in an almost exclusively female community that values their experience of being caregivers for their household.

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