Multimodal Illness Narratives on Instagram. Sharing the Experience of Endometriosis


  • Ida Melander


This article explores how illness is narrated on a shared activist Instagram account, where five women share their experiences of living with the chronic disease endometriosis. The day-to-day, multimodal, and collaborative nature of the account is an example of online contemporary illness narratives. Informed by dscourse analysis, social semiotics, and research on small stories, this article analyzes the semiotic resources used for narrating, the social space of the account, and the particu­lar discourses and identities that the narratives index. Following the narra­tive dimensions of Ochs and Capps, the analysis demonstrates a dynamic interplay between the different semiotic resources used to narrate about illness. The combina­tion of images on Instagram, for instance, affords a sequential progres­sion that moves the teller through space and place. In other cases, the images are used to contradict or strengthen the story that is told in writing. The account’s construc­tion as a shared space for raising awareness about endometriosis experi­ences also influences the stories that are told; tellers orient themselves both to previous and current stories on the account, and attend to the particular endometriosis experiences that are tellable on the account. In this way, the tellers demon­strate awareness of the typical endometriosis story, and position them­selves as moral and knowledgeable endometriosis patients.