Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Rich Kids of Instagram (2014)

Instagram is an interesting phenomenon. A platform for people to easily edit and share photographs, it has been criticised for devaluing traditional photography, creating an environment in which everyone's photos look the same and encouraging the promotion of unreal and unattainable lifestyles. One of the most critique-worthy things to come out of Instagram is the Rich Kids of Instagram hashtag and blog: the pictures of the wealthy teenage children of the richest people in the world, who use Instagram to show off their expensive possessions and lifestyle. They love to remind everyone how much money and stuff they have; those who follow #RKOI love to use them as examples of everything that's wrong in society today.

I love Instagram and I use it all the time but mainly for looking at pictures of cats (#catsofinstagram). I've avoided #RKOI due to a complete lack of interest but I was intrigued to discover that in 2014 the blog Rich Kids of Instagram had been fictionalised in Rich Kids of Instagram: A Novel. The book follows the trials and tribulations of several bright young things, including the daughter of a wealthy media mogul; a minor European royal; and the son of a Hollywood producer. These teenagers are joined by a network of wealth and privilege: they go to the same parties, shop at the same exclusive stores and holiday in the same expensive destinations. Their world is briefly disrupted by the arrival of internet Wunderkind Josh Evergreen, a prodigy who has sold a website that changed the face of music for a phenomenal amount of money and who enters the world of the wealthy. The bright young things want to know: where did this mysterious man come from, what will he do next and (most importantly) what can he do for them?

Designed to be a satire, Rich Kids of Instagram: A Novel follows some well-worn paths. Money can buy you lots of things but it can't buy happiness. The sins of the father are visited upon the children. Conspicuous consumption of things always involves conspicuous consumption of drugs and alcohol (are there no wealthy people who don't have substance abuse problems?). These are pretty standard tropes and are on their own quite a bit blah. However, what this book does do really well is highlight the uncomfortable truth that while money may not buy happiness, it can cushion you from having to experience a lot of unpleasantness or even acknowledge that unpleasantness exists. When you can touch $5 million worth of stuff before leaving the house (the comfort ritual of one of the teens), you really are living in a different place to the rest of us.

This book is nothing remarkable and I absolutely would only borrow it from the library but, given that all the characters are completely awful, I was surprisingly engaged. Three stars.

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