The Instagrammable outdoors – investigating the sharing of nature experiences through visual social media

Irma Arts* (Corresponding Author), Anke Fischer, Dominic Duckett, Rene Van der Wal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Despite the growing popularity of Instagram as a medium to portray nature and the outdoors, there remains limited research available exploring its influence on people's experiences in nature. We investigate Instagram as a three-way negotiation between users, the platform's affordances and social norms associated with both Instagram use and outdoor experiences.
Moving beyond polarized, conceptual debates situating social media affordances within dystopias and eutopias, we provide empirical insight from the lived experiences of everyday Instagram users reflecting upon their mediated outdoor activities.
We found that participants shared special moments, beautiful landscapes and happy memories while they struggled with notions of authenticity associated with these experiences. They perceived certain scenes as more ‘Instagrammable’ than others, and this led to sharing homogenous stories and visual representations of the outdoors.
At the same time, participants actively reflected on this standardization and aestheticization of the landscape and their experiences, and highlighted strategies to counter this, such as actively following voices normally under-represented in media portraying outdoor activities or posting pictures that were not ‘polished’.
We conclude that to understand modern-day interactions with nature and move beyond purely theoretical discussions about the flaws or merits of social media, we need to look at users' own strategies that integrate visual social media into their outdoor activities, while taking into account how platform features and social norms contribute to the construction of these activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1244-1256
Number of pages13
JournalPeople and Nature
Volume3
Issue number6
Early online date29 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The authors thank all participants in this study for sharing their views and experiences with them, and thank two anonymous reviewers as well as the associated editor who provided helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. They also thank John-Paul Shirreffs for the artwork in the Graphical Abstract. This work was supported by the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute.

Data Availability Statement

The data on which this research is based are archived on secure servers at the corresponding author's institution. In order to preserve confidentiality and research participants' anonymity (as promised in the context of the participants' informed consent), the data are not made publicly available.

Keywords

  • environmental communication
  • instagram
  • mobile media technology
  • nature experience
  • outdoor recreation
  • photography
  • social media
  • sociomateriality

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