A Social Network Analysis of Consumer Perceptions Receiving Tattoos and the Current General Meaning of Tattoos: A Study of Connecting Hashtags Used on Instagram

Primary Author: April Alley
Co-Author(s): Tzu Yu Wang; Chih Han Wang
Faculty Sponsor: Jihyeong Son

Primary college/unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences
Campus: Pullman


Overall, throughout history, tattoos have evolved to be used in all different types of human membership or groups type settings (Park, 2016). It was previously understood, tattoos were used as a tool to signal to groups; where the individual has come from geographically and what group the individual belongs to. However, with the growth of social media, the meanings of tattoos have been changed and it is used for the ways to reveal individuality. Therefore, this study examined how tattoos are presented and communicate a person’s identity, values, and experiences on social media. 6237 useable online posts including hashtags related to tattoos on Instagram were collected using InstaCrawlR software and Social network analysis of hashtags were conducted using R and Gephi. Finally, 54 hashtags are shown in Gephi and are connected using the highest rate of words associated with #tattoo. . Hashtag themes were categorized based on 5 themes chosen to categorize the research: (1) tattoo (i.e., #tattooink, #tattooist), (2) lifestyle (i.e., #photooftheday, #fitness), (3) art (i.e., #artwork, #illustration), (4) self-identification (i.e., #artist, #tattooartist), and (5) emotion (i.e., #love, #happy). In social media, tattoos as a positive symbolic present lifestyle, art, and identification. Tattoo as a significant element to delivering self-information. For the emotional aspect, it connects with positive meanings such as happy, or love. In the past, tattoos were sometimes regarded and used for identifying criminal activities and associations. However, tattoos have become a positive and individualized symbol on Instagram.