The visual frame of the political candidate on Instagram: the 2021 Catalan regional elections

María-Teresa Gordillo-Rodríguez, Elena Bellido-Pérez


Social networks are tools for constructing digital identity, making online impression management possible. This study explains, in the context of the politainment age, the way in which Instagram allows political candidates to build their digital image; that is, to perform online self-representation. Specifically, the focus of this paper is the image of political candidates on Instagram during the campaign of the 2021 Catalan regional elections on February 14. It links Goffman’s (1956) theory of the presentation of the self in everyday life to both current research approaches to online self-representation and Grabe and Bucy’s (2009) visual framing theory. The objective is to study the type of elements employed by candidates for constructing their photographic and video stage settings and, therefore, their digital identities during the election campaign. After an operationalization of Goffman’s and Grabe and Bucy’s theories resulting in 27 items, a content analysis was carried out on a total of 215 Instagram posts of the eight main candidates published between 29 January and 13 February 2021. It has been observed that all political candidates show themselves in a more professional way, and it couldn’t be affirmed that a certain visual frame is attached to a certain ideology. In line with previous research, our results show that the ‘ideal candidate’ was the predominating frame, although particularities corresponding to the 2021 Catalan context were observed. Implications to the current context of online political communication are identified and discussed.

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