According to Caroline Calloway, Instagram captions are art. At least, her Instagram captions are art. She puts a lot of time into documenting her lifestyle – time she spends curating, editing, brainstorming, signal boosting. Plus, she attended an Ivy League university, why shouldn’t her bougie social media output be categorized as such?
Pick holes in the theory all you like, it’s not for us to say whether an Instagram feed can be considered alongside Warhol. Maybe it can. On the other hand, it should be easy to tell when an Instagram post is pure commerce.
Often, it’s not.
Influencers (generally folks with good eyebrows and a gym subscription) have made a cottage industry of blurring the line between art and commerce. Between personal opinion and business. Whether it’s dodgy deals with massive warehouse chains, an aversion to documenting charity receipts, or posting content without the appropriate #sponcon hashtags, it’s a field rife with apparent deception. On one end of the spectrum sit mums "asking questions" about vaccines, on the other; multi-millionaires allegedly not paying their workers in Bangladesh.
And it got us thinking, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em.
Below is the Official Villainesse Guide to the Influencer Lifestyle*.
First, you’ll want to figure out your angle. Maybe it’s fitness, maybe it’s food. So long as it circles around the concept of ‘wellness’ you’re golden.
We’re allergic to the word ‘diet’ in these parts – this isn’t the nineties. Instead, we do cleanses. Or we starve ourselves between certain hours of the day. This is called ‘leading a healthy lifestyle’.
Oh, and due diligence means falling in love with several brands. That means you can hawk them with lines like “I’d never recommend something I don’t personally believe in”. Perhaps you should develop an obsession with a certain brand of face water. That way you can say, “I’m obsessed with this stuff.” Infuse it into your lifestyle until you can’t remember what came first; the obsession or the payment.
Oh! We also collaborate. Despite the job-title, we shirk the responsibility that comes with “influencing” people. Instead, we interview anti-science charlatans under the guise of “having a discussion”. Sure, they believe eating your own toenails cures cancer, so what? We’re all entitled to our opinions.
When you get some blowback from the sad sacks on Twitter, write an apology on your notes app. Apologize for making them feel that way. Drop a Gandhi quote if you think it necessary. If it’s really bad, you’ll have to hop on camera.
For this, you’ll strip yourself of your usual hair and make-up. Authentic apologies are only made bare-faced. They also have titles like-
Also… without digging too deep, you'll want to hop on some social causes. Feminism, in particular, is a nice way to inoculate yourself against criticism. Anytime you’re called out for, I don’t know, endorsing weight-loss lollipops, you can use feminism as a shield. It’s not very feminist to criticize a woman now, is it?
Anyway, I think you’ve got it from here. And remember, the most important thing is to have fun. Or at least, to look like you are. On Instagram.
*Not to explain the joke, but we must point out the above is satire.Support Villainesse