It is fascinating to read about cultures that one is ignorant of and with the arrival of the internet and social media, one hears of many such micro-cultures. I have been vaguely curious about the phenomenon of so-called ‘influencers’ who are, as far as I can see, people who promote themselves via social media and as a result others take their opinions on things seriously, even if they have no credentials whatsoever other than their social media popularity. It seems pretty weird to me but then I am not of the social media world.
This article examines a new documentary that looks into the creation of three such people.
Working a menial job is hard, but “Fake Famous” demonstrates that being an influencer, too, can be a tedious kind of labor. In one amusing sequence, Bilton takes us behind the scenes of a photo shoot in which Dominique and Wylie are shown partaking in one-per-cent-like activities such as sipping champagne and eating chocolates poolside at the Four Seasons, relaxing blissfully on an international flight, and receiving a luxurious spa treatment. All of this, however, is smoke and mirrors: in the pictures, which are shot in quick succession at a single location, a toilet seat held aloft mimics a plane’s window, the champagne is apple juice, the chocolates are pats of butter dipped in cocoa powder, and the rose-petal-infused spa basin is a plastic kiddie pool.
Most influencers, Bilton tells us—even, reportedly, mega-successful ones, like Kim Kardashian—have expedited their climb to the top of the social-media pyramid by purchasing followers, in order to inflate their engagement metrics. It’s in the best interest of social-media companies and their Wall Street investors to turn a blind eye to this practice, Bilton explains, as whirring stacks of hundred-dollar bills flash on the screen, because these puffed-up numbers equal increased proceeds.
Influencers “don’t make you feel better about yourself,” Bilton says, toward the end of the documentary. “The entire concept of influencing is to make you feel worse.” This statement is followed by an ominous montage of designer-label-clad children posing on Instagram, harbingers of a future that has already arrived. All this seems a bit rich coming from a project dedicated to the remaking of regular people as influencers.
Social media has really spawned some really strange new business models.