What Does #Freedom Look Like? Instagram and the Visual Imagination of Values

Tommaso Trillò, Rebecca Scharlach, Blake Hallinan, Bumsoo Kim, Saki Mizoroki, Paul Frosh, Limor Shifman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Instagram is the place for the visualization of everything, from travel and food to abstract concepts such as freedom. Over the past decade, the platform has introduced a bottom-up process where users co-produce image repertoires that shape the boundaries of the imaginable. Drawing on an epistemology of social constructionism, we ask which visual repertoires are associated with value-related terms on Instagram. We studied 20 widely used value hashtags, sampling the top 100 posts for each (N ¼ 2,000). A combined qualitative–quantitative content analysis revealed that 19 of the 20 hashtags possess distinct visual footprints, typically reflecting an orientation toward the self and an emphasis on consumption. We conclude by discussing three implications of our findings: the role of images in the social construction of the meaning of values, the distinction between internalized and externalized value depictions, and aestheticized consumption as an organizing principle of Instagram’s mainstream.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)875-897
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Communication
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Archive
  • Folksonomy
  • Hashtags
  • Image Repertoires
  • Instagram
  • Values

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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