The Virtual Swirl: Images of #Interracial Couples on Instagram

Christie Sillo, Sociology
Faculty Advisor: Barbara Katz Rothman
NML Award: The Joshua Brown Visual Culture Award (April 2019)

The Virtual Swirl: Images of #Interracial Couples on Instagram

In a 2014 interview, Jessie Daniels, a pioneer of digital sociology, stated: “…at a really basic level of intellectual curiosity, sociologists have an obligation to see what’s up with the Internet and how it’s changing things.” So, I ask: what’s up with Instagram and how is it changing (or not changing) things when it comes to the construction and consumption of the interracial couple?

While images of interracial relationships have been analyzed on one-to-many mediums such as on T.V and in movies, little research has been done on how they are represented digitally on the many-to-many medium of the Internet. An integral part of the media landscape of today, social media applications like Instagram — an increasingly popular photo- and video-sharing application — are in need of systematic sociological analysis.

In order to partially fill this gap, I use a multi-method social media analysis approach — including online ethnography, digital content analysis of images and text, and online interviews — to determine how interracial couples are being produced and consumed on Instagram.