Hashtags are not only a pipeline to the rest of the world, necessary to extend the reach of social media posts. They are also a means of ontological classification: this is what X looks like.
Below are the top posts of ten nature related hashtags on Instagram generated in November 2017. They are listed in descending order of post count.
These popular images of nature share qualities of vividness, high contrast, and of being almost exclusively presented in colour. Nature is depicted as pristine and beautiful or cute. A combination of photographic conventions and conceptions of things in nature worth looking at, and so anticipated.
Susan Sontag was keen to the problems of photography and nature, “so successful has been the camera’s role in beautifying the world that photographs, rather than the world, have become the standard of the beautiful” and “the habit of photographic seeing – of looking at reality as an array of potential photographs – creates as estrangement from, rather than union with nature.”
Something not anticipated is that the images are slow. With the exception of the time-lapsed cityscape of cars on a freeway, the images are contemplative or studies of nature. In this scheme humans are fast and nature is slow. This feels true in an everyday sense. Though nature is slow until it’s not, as people who study tipping points articulate.
The implications of an ontology created as a byproduct of post promotion warrants more attention. It’s conceivable that rather than hashtags reaffirming stereotypes they could function to shift and contest them without antagonism. So #naturelovers might shift from largely aesthetic appreciations of nature to images of nature restoration, nature protection, and the lessening of human impacts. Similarly, #naturephotography, potentially the largest scoped hashtag of any, need not be restricted by narrow conceptions of its boundaries.
The Full List
- tree 38,802,658 posts
- mountains 37,538,615 posts
- naturelovers 29,563,648 posts
- naturephotography 23,554,918 posts
- birds 11,735,185 posts
- landscapephotography 8,057,643 posts
- wildlifephotography 3,114,502 posts
- insects 1,835,102 posts
- astrophotography 887,357 posts
- biodiverstiy 295,584 posts