Christopher Bailer, Dominique Druckman and Wylie Heiner take selfies outside LA’s most famous selfie location- The Pink Wall, a bright pink-painted wall on the side of a clothing store building. Picture: HBO Max
Christopher Bailer, Dominique Druckman and Wylie Heiner take selfies outside LA’s most famous selfie location- The Pink Wall, a bright pink-painted wall on the side of a clothing store building. Picture: HBO Max

'Fake Famous' and the allure of insta-fame

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published May 3, 2021

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There’s a certain disdain that people have towards influencers. Or should I rather say had.

What also drove this feeling was resentment.

How is it that people take pictures, post them on social media and then end up getting paid big bucks? I understand. I would also be mad about it.

And yet influencing is a major source of employment for many people.

From celebrities to ordinary people, influencing has become a way to secure a second (third fourth and fifth) income and for those successful enough, they are living their best lives.

And yet there’s a dark side to influencing and it involves the pressure and stress of getting enough people to follow and engage with your content, thereby allowing you to monetise those numbers.

And this is what “Fake Famous” is about – the numbers that one needs to truly be a successful influencer.

The documentary, directed by tech journalist, Nick Bilton, follows three wannabe influencers, who responded to a casting call asking if they wanted to be famous.

Dominique Druckman is an actress, Christopher Bailey a fashion designer and Wylie Heiner is a real estate assistant.

They all attempt to become social media influencers, helped by Bilton to start living a life and producing content that will bring brands to want to collaborate with them.

However, they are not public figures and soon Bilton has to resort to purchasing fake followers and bots to boost their popularity.

These bots were necessary so they could flood their photos with comments and likes and make sure that they appeared like influencers.

However, the more content was posted, the more Bilton had to buy bots for their accounts.

They also started creating fake content around their lives, including hiring our mansions and private jets so it could appear that this was the life they were living. Nothing was organic.

Bailey and Heiner struggle with this, while Druckman hits the sweet spot and starts getting brands requesting to collaborate.

She even goes on a trip with real influencers and experiences all sides of the influencer market- even the unreasonable requests from brands and how self-absorbed everyone is.

The documentary highlights just how crazy the world of social media influencing is, how much it can affect your mental health and also force you to spend thousands before you can get a return on your investment.

It reminded me of “Public Figure”, the documentary co-produced by and starring Bonang Matheba which investigated the psychological effects of everyday social media use and how influencers deal with fame, money, hate and obsession.

Influencing is difficult. You have to create content that will entice people to follow you, but also make sure that the content is organic so you are still relateable. Few can strike that balance.

While there are things I would have chosen to expand on- like what the effect of actively supporting the bot market has on Bilton, how the three subjects of the documentary feel about influencer culture, whether they still want to be influencers, the lessons they learnt and also whether Bilton’s opinion on influencer culture has changed or not.

I still think it is an important documentary that speaks to what it really entails to be an influencer.

But it really could have gone even deeper than it deep.

With every second person courting fame using social media, be it Facebook, TikTok or YouTube, there are pitfalls that they need to be aware of and Fake Famous attempts to addresses it in the best way possible.

“Fake Famous” is streaming on Showmax.

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