As a millennial, it’s my duty to inform our readers about an internet thing that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t really matter, but it certainly matters in the realm of social media.
Caroline Calloway is a 27-year-old, New York-based influencer with nearly 800,000 Instagram followers. She made national headlines when she sold $165 tickets for a creativity workshop in half a dozen cities without booking venues, promised to write heartfelt letters to every attendee, serve a homemade lunch, and give out care packages and more.
The events sold out. But many of them never happened.
A writer on Twitter documented the downfall, and people have compared Calloway to the failed Fyre Festival. I don’t have the space to go into detail, but it’s absolutely worth a Google search.
A few months after this, an old friend of Calloway’s, Natalie Beach, wrote a tell-all article about her friendship with the influencer, who many now called a scammer.
Calloway’s initial start on Instagram came from her buying 20,000 followers and using targeted ads. Her page is filled with beautiful travel photos and mystical captions, most of which were ghost written by Beach.
Beach revealed that Calloway was given what I dream of— a $375,000 book deal.
The book would be a memoir about Calloway’s time at Cambridge University, dealing with relationships and heartbreak. They collaborated, but Beach wrote the majority of the proposal.
When it came time to write the book, Calloway failed. She missed her deadlines and was asked to return more than $100,000 from the advance.
She’s now dealing with the fallout of everyone knowing that parts of her success weren’t entirely truthful.
(How someone messes up a near $400,000 book deal is beyond me. The author side of me will forever be baffled by this.)
The real story to me is how the fraud in this tale is a very realistic take on influencer and online culture. Instagram is full of curated, beautiful photos with photoshopped skies, fashionable clothes and flat stomachs.
A lot of it’s fake, or at least misrepresented. A lot of us know this. But a lot of us don’t care.
The tell-all and failed workshops will forever besmirch Calloway’s name, but that doesn’t mean she’s done. She still lives in New York and currently makes money by buying cheap craft supplies, gluing them together, and selling them for around $200. People are buying them.
It’s baffling, but it’s not surprising.
There’s a few important lessons. You can be given all the opportunities, but still blow them.
You can profess a certain fakeness, but it doesn’t matter. Internet culture isn’t about being truthful. It’s about being a spectacle.
Opinions offered in this column are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Tri-County Times or its staff. Email Hannah Ball at email@example.com.