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Instagram Protests around the 2014 Romanian Elections

The final speaker in this ECREA 2016 session is Darren Lilleker, whose focus is also on Instagram. On the platform, politics has become part of a suite of everyday uses, and this also points to the everyday dimension of political discussion. Some of this may be part of narcissistic self-promotion, but much is also about the social mediation of everyday life.

The focus of the present study is on the Romanian election in 2014: the election has two rounds of voting, and the Romanian diaspora around Europe felt that it was restricted from participating in the election by the very limited number of voting stations outside of Romania itself. This led to the extensive use of #yesvalot (yes we vote) hashtags on Instagram to express disagreement and exert pressure on the government, and it mobilised the Romanian diaspora in particular.

On election day itself, Romanians posted selfies with their voting cards, as well as pictures of the queues outside the voting stations around Europe; various national monuments around Europe also featured in these photos. This can be seen as an expression of collective identity and a call to connective action. Additional images also made political comments, and (somewhat more curiously) interspersed these with pictures of food.

This expresses personal and national identity, then, but also blends this with everyday experience; the net effect is to both mobilise and celebrate. Images depicted a shared moment that expresses solidarity through national symbolism, but should be regarded more as self-actualisation (as taking power) rather than organised action. There is an overall feel-good factor to these images, and they enabled the creation of a historic moment that is actively experienced by networked citizens all over Europe.