Sustainability on Instagram

Purpose: The explorative study aims to provide insight into how issues of sustainability are understood, presented and negotiated by Danes in everyday life as shared on Instagram.

RQ1: In which connection do the hashtags #bæredygtighed (#sustainability), #bæredygtighverdag (#sustainableeverydaylife) and #bæredygtiglivsstil (#sustainablelifestyle) appear on Instagram (i.e. commercial, activist, or more private posts), what other hashtags are they paired with, and which changes occur over time?

RQ2: How do Instagram users represent and negotiate notions of sustainability in their posts, and which changes occur over time?

Support Type: Feasibility

Description: The project focuses on the negotiation of sustainability in everyday life.  While politics and public issues dominates Twitter-use in Denmark and also to some degree the use of Facebook, Instagram is an interesting platform when one seeks to examine everyday meningmaking and trace practices. The project proposes propses to use publicly accessible Instagram posts – images, text and hashtags, but not comments made by other users –  marked with the hashtags #bæredygtighed (#sustainability), #bæredygtighverdag (#sustainableeverydaylife) and #bæredygtiglivsstil (#sustainablelifestyle) to explore the topic. Ideally, the material will be a) collected for the whole period of 2015-2020, for instance as week-long samples once each quarter of each year, in order to enable analysis of developments over time. Alternatively, b) all material for 2019, a year with a marked focus on climate change in Denmark, could be collected.

The main need is to get assistance for determining whether it is possible to collect materials based on hashtags from Instagram in a safe and responsible way as well as more concretely to explore the usefulness of existing applications such as Apify’s Instagram Scraper and Instaloader.

Outcome: Both Instagram Scraper (pay) and Instaloader, which are both scrapers, appeared promising at first. Both programs can retrieve some amount of data from public Instagram accounts, for example all posts from a given account. However, the need in this case was to harvest data based on hashtag affiliation and that turned out to be more challenging. While Instaloader ought to be able to do this, we never got that function to work. Instagram scraper was able to retrieve material based on a hashtag search but only 600-900 entries before shutting down. We determined that further collection required login and proceeded to log on via cookies as this was a functionality on offer. However, this never worked. An internet search made it clear that other users encountered similar problems. This seemed to be a rather new problem. Looking through the application and reading other posts, it appears that over time, more and more workarounds have become necessary. In other words, Instagram employs very harsh measures against scraping (which they are not allowed to ban), and, thus, it may not be feasible to harvest data from that platform. At least not through scraping.

Support period: Spring 2021

Project Team:

Sara Mosberg Iversen, Associate Professor at the Department for the Study of Culture – Media Studies, University of Southern Denmark