In 1968, artist Andy Warhol famously said ‘In the future everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame’, and sure was he right. Thanks to social media, namely that of online photo sharing app Instagram, it is now easier than ever to share our lives and even, for a select few, to become famous for it.
Once upon a time the famous were a select group of the population admired for their talent. From amazing lyricists to ingenious artists, celebrity status was achieved only by the greatest, most creative, most intelligent minds in society. Long gone are the days when being great at something meant something. Today, achieving notoriety is as simple as posting a photo from your phone for the world to see. Welcome the ‘Instagram famous’.
So what makes someone Instagram famous? One reason is the portrayal of a supposed ‘perfect’ life. Think a young, healthy photogenic 20-something woman, most probably wealthy, relentlessly smiling and with all the opportunities in the world. Who wouldn’t want to be like her? It’s telling that the most Instagrammed image this year was that of poached eggs and avocado, the epitome of a health conscious, middle class, seemingly ‘ideal’ lifestyle. Everyone is searching for the perfect life, and where better to look for inspiration than on your phone, always at your fingertips.
Take for example Aussie girl Hannah Polites, the ideal girl next door. As if her blonde locks, tanned skin and perfect proportions weren’t enough, she is a strong advocate for wholefoods, is a full time midwife, travels the world and has even had a brief stint volunteering as a midwife in villages in Laos – pretty, healthy and benevolent, is there anything she can’t do!?
Even models who would’ve once remained famous for their faces and bodies, are now internationally renowned for their entire lifestyles. From Mara Teigen, who boasts 475k Instagram followers admiring her seductive selfies and inspirational quotes, to the 1m follower-strong Mirgaeva Galinka, everyone wants to show off what they have. Before Instagram, the most famous models would be those featured most in magazines, on the most catwalks and most desired by designers – now it can be anyone, all they need is a sufficient following.
It is clear, however, that in some cases not even the Instagram famous buy into their own ‘perfect’ lifestyles. Australian teenager Essena O’Neill, who once had an Instagram following of 612,000 followers, recently quit the website, claiming it was “contrived perfection made to get attention”. Before this, she dramatically edited the captions of her posts to reveal the reality behind them to the likes of “see how relatable my captions were – stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs. I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention.”
Even O’Neill herself claims she was drawn in by it, and was no longer living in a ‘3D World’, the full explanation given in her very candid video ‘Why I REALLY am quitting social media’. If it’s not the lifestyle they’re famous for, it’s their bodies. Just look at Jen Selter, health and fitness advocate, who is said to be blessed with the ‘world’s best bottom’. Shots of her scantily clad in bikinis and doing yoga in the park that reach up to 200,000 likes have undoubtedly made her more famous than being a mere fitness guru would. She is a social media star. She is Insta-famous. She herself admitted that her images are focussed more on her rounded behind than her face, as this is what people want to see.
#ThatView ⛅️ A photo posted by Jen Selter (@jenselter) on
In some ways what Jen Selter has done can be seen as admirable. From humble beginnings, the 20 year old decided university wasn’t for her, and has since amassed a total of 8.4 million followers on Instagram and has gained sponsorship from the likes of Nike and New Balance, to name but a few. To some, she is an inspiration for fitness and health, but for others she epitomises yet another perfect, unattainable life.
So, Instagram allows fame and fortune for those that wouldn’t ordinarily be able to achieve it. But is it necessarily a good thing? Only a select few will ever live a life as ‘ideal’ as that portrayed on Instagram, but rarely even these people believe their lives to be perfect. Instagram should be a place for sharing images and inspiring people, but must come with a word of warning – not everything you see should be believed.