Fake Famous - Sacrifice everything to influence all

23/2 · Por HBO · Reading 4 min.

Dive into the world of digital influencers with this new documentary that looks at social media addiction from a new perspective. Being an influencer comes at a price.

 Fake Famous. The new a new documentary on addiction and life behind social media

Stuck at home, glued to our devices, in the backdrop of a world pandemic, our use of social media has exponentially increased over the last year. If one were to ask a casual user, they would say that social media is for posting updates and staying close with friends and family. Its user interface is innocent at face value yet social media has evolved to be more than just apps for posting pictures; its use case now revolves around branding, monetization, and a word that has entered the industry’s vernacular and found its place in 2019 as the newest addition to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary; influencer. What is an influencer? What defines their role and how can one become an influencer? These questions, and much more, are explored in HBO’s latest documentary, Fake Famous, which takes viewers along a social experiment that will challenge and possibly alter the views of how social media really interacts and affects its user base.

    Debuting this month, from first-time director and veteran journalist Nick Bilton, Fake Famous explores the industry of social media influencers through an innovative social experiment. The film’s journey into this world is driven by the casting of three people in Los Angeles who all have relatively small social followings and the attempt to grow them into famous influencers. While the conventional thought maybe that users gain followers through an organic contribution of likes, shares, and endorsements, the reality is that an army of bots is specifically hired to “engage” with their user base which in terms drives their profile to the status of an influencer. In plain words, those posts that amass thousands of likes within minutes of posting, are not real people. They are fake accounts designed to prop the image of the user, and in turn, create a facade of influence and reputation that generates traffic and money. Purchasing likes on social media platforms like Instagram are a standard of the industry now and its unintended consequence can be seen through the rising addiction of young people to their phone and social media. 

    Nick Bilton is no stranger to this field as he has spent the length of his professional career as a technology journalist. The British-born director, educated at The New School and the School of Visual Arts, has worked at The New York Times and through its reporting, earned significant recognition for modernizing the FAA’s regulation regarding electronic device uses on airplanes. He takes his wealth of knowledge on the subject and challenges the viewers of Fake Famous with a fundamental question: What is fame and influence in the digital age? With users soon to be reaching billions across all social media platforms around the world, there are hundreds of millions of those users that are considered celebrities due to their large followings. Yet he begs the question, are they really famous? Bilton and his team set out to explore what it all really means by launching an experiment that begins with an open casting call in Los Angeles, with the goal of transforming three people into famous influencers. The young trio he selects – aspiring actress Dominique, fashion designer Chris, and real estate assistant Wylie – proceed to have wildly different experiences as their fake followers grow by the thousands each day. Each of their stories illuminates the ephemeral world of online influence and the realities of a lifestyle based largely on fantasy.

O    As soon as the experiment takes off, it won’t take long for viewers of Fake Famous to see that the experiment actually works. As the followers continue to increase, so do the interests of brands. They begin to send them products and ask them to showcase their services. All the while, the trio goes to extreme lengths to recreate their lifestyles in unusual circumstances; such as imitating an intimate spa experience in a backyard on top of a kid’s inflatable pool. Yet to the casual scroller, the picture is relaxation personified. Little do they know that the source of truth is not what the picture tries to sell. Even if the entire premise is tenuously based on fake scenarios and fake lives, the financial incentives for every piece of the puzzle are very real.

Yet the real story behind Fake Famous is our obsession with likes, followers, favorites, posts, and how the online world perpetuates a fake sense of glamour when in front of the post, it meets a generation filled with depression, anxiety, and addiction to social media. Teenagers in particular, during a time in their development that is critical for self-confidence and acceptance, continue to scroll looking for that satisfaction behind a string of lies, each one bigger than the next. It’s a fantasy that even Dominique, Chris, and Wylie, portrayed in the film while being part of the influencer world. 

Joining Bilton in providing insights into today’s social media landscape are interviewees including New York Times technology reporter Taylor Lorenz; Liz Eswein of the hugely popular @newyorkcity; Bloomberg technology reporter Sarah Frier; Justine Bateman, author of “Fame: The Hijacking of Reality”; and others.

Fake Famous, a fantastic expose on the definition of fame and influence, is available February 23rd on HBO and to stream on HBO GO

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