Online First Articles

JCE articles published online before being included in a forthcoming Issue

Online First articles are published online individually before being put into bigger journal issues.



Living the Good Life on Instagram

An exploration of lay understandings of what it means to live well (August 2019)

Anastasia Loukianov, Kate Burningham & Tim Jackson
University of Surrey (UK), Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), UK

Download full paper here


While the consumerist approach to what living well can mean permeates traditional media, the extent to which it appears in people’s own depictions of the good life is unclear. As the unsustainability of the consumerist approach is increasingly evidenced, both in terms of environmental and social impacts, looking into which understandings of the good life resonate with people becomes essential. This article uses a sample of posts tagged #goodlife and variants originally collected in 2014-2015 on Instagram (a popular image sharing platform) to explore which understandings of the good life can be found on the platform.

Using multimodal discourse analysis, it highlights two different user generated understandings of the good life: ‘working on future goals’ and ‘appreciating the present moment’. We argue that neither approach is directly or necessarily congruent with the traditional consumer good life. Yet their shared photographic codes with advertisements can contribute to their framing into the consumer good life.

Additionally, the temporalities afforded by the platform and currently in place through social conventions may affect the type of narratives that are mediated. While the understandings derived from the analysis are not straightforward reflections of people’s beliefs about the meaning of the good life, they constitute conversations that at once inform, and are informed by, users’ beliefs about living well. The popularity of the platform makes these conversations crucial for anyone interested in desired lifestyles and their sustainability.



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