YUQI LIAO

Instagram @WeThePeopleDC

If you have some footprints in Washington D.C. and are active on Instagram, chances are that you may have heard of, or are currently following, the Instagram account @WeThePeopleDC. As its name hints, the account runs on an interesting model: each day, the handle is held by a different person living or working in the nation’s capital. The idea is that the account followers get to see the district through the eyes of Washingtonians of all backgrounds.

Background

Ever since its very first post back in Jan 2015, the account has grown exponentially. As of Oct 2018, it has 45 thousand followers and has been named the best local Instagram account in DC. It is so popular that the waitlist to hold the handle is now around 3 years, according to a few recent posts, such as this one (regardless, you can sign up here)! The account is now a platform not only to showcase the community but also to engage and reshape it. Recently, DC Mayor Bowser held the handle for a day to promote an event. Oh, and Obama had made a few appearances (check here and here) too through the lens of the account holders.

If you have followed the account for a while, it won’t be hard to pick up some popular themes among the posts of @WeThePeopleDC, such as puppies, food, drinks, coffee, and the monument. This got me thinking. What are the most typical (or clichéd) themes likely to be showcased by the account holder? Are certain places in DC featured more often than others? Are there any patterns in when and how people post? Are @WeThePeopleDC truly representative of the people in DC? In what I plan to be a blog post series (and this being the first post), I will show my attempt to address these questions.

Method

Using a powerful Instagram scraper tool, I retrieved information (including captions, comments, likes, hashtags, time, and geo locations) of 9,728 @WeThePeopleDC posts from 01/29/2015, the day of its very first post, to 08/16/2018, the time when I scrapped the data. Since one Instagram post could have multiple pictures, these posts actually include 11,196 pictures and videos. I did some further geocoding, data merging and cleaning (details could be found here) to construct a clean dataset ready for the following analyses.

Most Liked Posts

The 9,728 posts analyzed received 251 likes, on average. The number of likes ranges from 3 (mostly from early posts in 2015) to 3,873, with a median of 178. The most-liked post (at the time of my scraping) is an excellent showcase of DC scene. The remaining top 5 most-liked posts could be found here: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th.

Most Commented Posts

An average @WeThePeople post receives 7 comments while the most commented post, which is about someone giving away free food, receives 315. The second most commented post receives 192 comments, which reveals the power of free food. Browsing through the remaining top 5 most-comments, you will find some beautiful comments (3rd, 4th, and 5th).

Where Do People Post?

A bit over 80% (7,789 out of 9,728) of all posts have geo location information. Some of the geotags are pretty general, like “Washington, District of Columbia”, or “Northeast Washington, Washington, District of Columbia”. Some get a bit more specific, such as “Columbia Heights” and “DuPont Circle”. The remaining geotags are at the level of a specific building or property, such as “Lincoln Memorial”, “Meridian Hill Park”, and “Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden”. The table below lists the geotags that are used at least 10 times at the time of my data retrieval. Did you see some of your favorite neighborhood, museum, café, bakery or restaurant in DC?

Rank    Location Name Location ID    N
1 Washington, District of Columbia 213480180 277
2 Columbia Heights 431021846 105
3 Shaw, Washington, D.C. 398052556 80
4 United States Capitol 3001994 72
5 Union Market DC 17664335 60
6 Dupont Circle 590718213 58
7 Meridian Hill Park 240887 56
8 Petworth, Washington, D.C. 226687206 47
9 Adams Morgan 388765809 46
10 Northeast Washington, Washington, District of Columbia 255111089 44
11 Logan Circle 208941 42
11 NoMa 244637618 42
13 Mount Pleasant Neighborhood, DC 220143606 40
14 Northwest Washington, Washington, District of Columbia 373285541 39
14 The Yards Park 223871912 39
14 Union Station, Washington D.C. 214513963 39
17 Lincoln Memorial 15712 37
18 The Obama White House 225931565 36
19 Nationals Park 235453813 35
20 Eastern Market 153462 33
21 Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. 254750439 32
21 Southeast, Washington, D.C. 1003343474 32
23 Georgetown, DC 1009997177 31
24 Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden 175770 29
24 National Building Museum 2222215 29
26 Capitol Hill 251483 25
26 U Street 218155430 25
28 Brookland 2258108 24
29 Logan Circle, Washington, D.C. 661725620 22
29 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution 216550363 22
29 Park View, Washington, D.C. 348372014 22
29 Renwick Gallery 373555 22
33 9:30 Club 42620 21
33 Baked and Wired 20908 21
33 National Gallery of Art 4366681 21
36 Farragut Square 216247476 20
36 Georgetown University 367909 20
36 Washington Monument National Monument 214773851 20
36 Washington National Cathedral 619641 20
40 Bloomingdale 214808890 19
40 Mount Pleasant, Washington, D.C. 266994012 19
40 The Mall (Washington DC) 236471522 19
43 Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception 698600 18
43 Bloomingdale Neighborhood 112774 18
43 Maketto 522811549 18
46 Blagden Alley 220142279 17
46 Glover Park 581403474 17
46 The Catholic University of America 1818173 17
46 Walter E. Washington Convention Center 21614 17
46 Wharf DC 240260328 17
51 Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture 262515071 16
51 Studio Theatre 681473 16
51 The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts 1797069 16
51 Trinidad, Washington, D.C. 288007973 16
55 Big Bear Cafe 268082 15
55 CityCenterDC 940940154 15
57 A Baked Joint 861977418 14
57 Capital Area Food Bank 235218391 14
57 Capital One Arena 372247132 14
57 Children’s National Medical Center 221398401 14
57 Congressional Cemetery 3097484 14
57 Mellow Mushroom 214103205 14
63 Capitol Hill East 1016211316 13
63 Cardozo High School 1899316 13
63 DC Brau Brewing Company 3855792 13
63 Dumbarton House, NSCDA Museum & Headquarters 5068862 13
63 La Colombe DC 228681882 13
63 Supreme Court of the United States 217378728 13
63 The Barbie Pond on Avenue Q 827440940 13
63 The Coupe 37742190 13
63 The Library of Congress 849479 13
63 Tidal Basin 342980053 13
73 Compass Coffee 255066865 12
73 Foggy Bottom 480653079 12
73 Hill East, Capitol Hill, DC 257787457 12
73 Le Diplomate 75367954 12
73 National Museum of Women in the Arts 218723464 12
73 NPR 123219 12
73 Showtime Bar 98872958 12
73 Southwest Waterfront 226465082 12
73 Southwest, Washington, D.C. 259248179 12
73 The George Washington University 2150339 12
73 Woodley Park, Washington, D.C. 249815242 12
84 Dacha Beer Garden 137265021 11
84 Florida House 650539693 11
84 H St NE 18957872 11
84 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library 220273766 11
84 National Museum of American History 838999 11
84 Rock Creek Park 214578741 11
84 Thomas Jefferson Memorial 139456 11
84 Washington Post 48734 11
92 Chinatown (Washington, D.C.) 267006300 10
92 Crispus Attucks Park 2492759 10
92 Dupont Circle Farmers Market 444809 10
92 Dupont Circle Fountain 859993053 10
92 Ebenezers Coffeehouse 52384 10
92 El Rey DC 219681075 10
92 Georgetown Waterfront Park 848636417 10
92 Georgetown, Washington, D.C. 505137722 10
92 Open City at the National Cathedral 494672326 10
92 Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery 213933592 10
92 Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian 483547 10
92 The Royal 404260334 10
92 U.S. Botanic Garden 1020983911 10
92 Zeke’s Coffee of DC 161404230 10

 

Using both ggolot2 and ggmap, I create the following map with red dots to visualize the location of @WeThePeople posts. Only a handful of posts are tagged outside of DC or outside of this map. Alpha (transparency) is set to be 0.5 so it is easier to see the intensity of some dots. The quick takeaway is that most dots are around the center of the city. Also, among the dots that scatter around each corner, the Southeast region seems to have especially fewer and lighter dots compared to other parts of DC. One caveat of interpreting this dot map, though, is that general locations like “Washington, District of Columbia” and more specific location such as “Lincoln Memorial” are all represented by dots. Ideally, I would only want to visualize the location at the building/property level. However, I haven’t found a way yet to distinguish the specificity of Instagram’s location ID without manual labor. If anyone has insights on this, please reach out!

 

 

I also created an area map to make the visualization and the takeaway cleaner. The package tigris was used to map DC by Census tracks. The caveat mentioned earlier was resolved in this area map after I removed posts tagged by the most general location, “Washington, District of Columbia”. The map reinforces the findings of the uneven distribution of the locations of @WeThePeople posts.

 

 

This finding, however, does not mean that future handle holders should just post more pictures in places less represented to make the whole thing evenly distributed. It’s more of a reminder to us that there are many places no reached and stories untold even though @WeThePeopleDC as a platform is trying its best to engage Washingtonians.

Credits

Special thanks to Sifan, Trang, and Pablo for inspiration and technical support for this post. Comments and new ideas for posts are all welcome!