Having heard so much about it, I finally got around to watching Fake Famous. A Nick Bilton documentary - he of New York Times and Vanity Fair fame - it exposes the fakery and sillyness in the world of influencer marketing. Not all of influencer marketing. But definitely a side-slice of it.
The idea is pretty simple. Pick 3 out of 4,000 random applicants and try to make them Insta-famous. Lean heavily on some "tricks of the trade." Buy followers. Buy likes. Pretend you're in places you're definitely not. Pretend you're getting free things, to get free things.
It's all a bit uncomfortable but (spoiler alert) ends on a happy high note. The chosen three, having replied to an advertisement asking if they wanted to become famous, want anything but that by the end of this little social experiment. Each finds comfort and happiness in just being themselves.
Of course a pandemic got in the way of filiming so a dose of reality came sooner than the producers might have planned. The documentary did nod to this reality. We've all shared or seen videos of people clapping for frontline workers or visiting relatives through glass windows.
2020 surfaced good and bad of social media in equal measure. Social media keeps us connected, but can drive us apart. Most of us share our real lives with friends and relatives. But others do not. In many ways it's a digital version of real lives - but some say digital versions are becoming real.
Search the internet for reviews of Fake Famous, and you'll find a mixed bag. If you have skin in the influencer game, you're understandably upset by it. If you're suspicious of social media, you'll probably be upset by it, too. But for different reasons on all sides.
For what it's worth, I believe Nick did a great job with the constraints he had. He highlighted silliness and trickery while highlighting the real attitudes and feelings of those he interviewed. And, most importantly, everyone involved knew what it was all about - including all the like-buying.
Nick is worth following on Twitter. He counts over 250,000 followers there. I assume all are real.