HBO documentary exposes how easy it is for influencers to buy their way to social media fame

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Scene from Fake Famous

Don’t believe everything you see on Instagram. This is Dominique Druckman at a photo shoot that makes it look like she’s relaxing at a spa. 

HBO

Dominique Druckman reclines on a tuft of red and white rose petals, her eyes closed, her skin dewy, a tranquil smile tugging at the corners of her perfectly tinted pink lips.  

According to her Instagram tag, Druckman is recharging at a Hollywood spa, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. She’s in a backyard, awkwardly propped onto a small plastic kiddie pool filled with flowers. A photographer stands over her, angling for the perfect shot. The kind that makes Druckman’s followers believe she’s living a luxurious life they could also have … if they just buy the expensive sunglasses and sneakers she’s hawking.

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At an audition for Fake Famous, Chris Bailey tries to show off his influencer potential. 

HBO

Thing is, 광주 성형외과 many of her followers aren’t real people. They’re bots

Druckman knows this. She’s part of a social experiment chronicled in the compelling new HBO documentary Fake Famous, written and directed by veteran technology journalist Nick Bilton. 

For the film — his first — Bilton attempts to turn Druckman and two other LA residents with relatively small Instagram followings into social media influencers by purchasing an army of fake followers and bots to “engage” with their posts. The three were chosen from around 4,000 people who responded to a casting call asking one simple question: “Do you want to be famous?”  

The documentary, on HBO now, feels plodding at times (or maybe it’s just tedious spending time with fame chasers), but it explores intriguing questions for our influencer-influenced times. Will people look at the trio differently as their follower counts rise? Will their lives change for the better? And in a world where numbers equal fame, what is the true nature (and cost) of fame anyway? 

The questions are worth exploring for 광주 성형외과 anyone who’s felt a tinge of envy scrolling through feeds of glamorous getaways and perfectly made-up miens. At least one of the newly anointed influencers discovers a soaring follower count isn’t good for his mental health. 

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On some level, most of us understand that <a website media presents carefully curated versions of other people’s realities and that influencers’ living rooms aren’t always bathed in the perfect sunlight. Last year, for example, Instagram influencer Natalia Taylor <a website a Bali vacation with pics snapped at Ikea to remind her followers not to believe everything they see. And who could forget the disastrous Fyre Festival hyped by the influencer crowd?  

But Bilton, formerly of The New York Times and now a correspondent for Vanity Fair, turns his unflinching reporter’s eye more broadly and methodically to this bizarre influencer world where followers, likes and comments function as a cultural currency. In doing so, he exposes just how fake that world can get. Spoiler alert: very.   

As Bilton hops on his phone to buy thousands more bots for his stars, we see that purchasing fake followers is as simple and quick as downloading an app. In one of the film’s more amusing scenes, Bilton’s wife, lying next to him in bed, asks when he’s going to sleep. “Just buying some bots, give me a second,” he answers. You can even choose your bots’ gender, nationality and political leaning.   

“Some of the most famous people in the world have 50 or 60 percent bots on their page,” says one bot dealer interviewed in the film.

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Fake Famous director Nick Bilton at auditions for the film. Around 4,000 people responded to a casting call with one simple question: “Do you want to be famous?” 

HBO

But the faking doesn’t stop with imaginary Instagram friends. It’s possible, we learn, to fake bids on eBay listings, fake sales of books and fake reviews of movies. And we see once again, as Natalia Taylor’s Ikea photo shoot proved, how hard it can be for followers to delineate real from staged. Pro tip I got from Fake Famous: Hold a toilet seat next to an image of a beach and you’ve got a convincing shot of you looking out an airplane window as you land for your dream island vacation.   

Fake Famous makes sure to point out that influencers can have a positive impact, raising awareness of issues like Black Lives Matter and the climate crisis and encouraging voter registration. But it paints an unsettling picture of a world in which a higher follower count not only enhances feelings of self-worth, but can make you more likely to get hired or attract friends and romance, even if your persona is entirely fabricated.  

The more glamour shots Druckman posts, the more free jewelry she gets from companies eager to see their products promoted. A fake post about working out at a fancy private gym gets Fake Famous subject Chris Bailey, a budding fashion designer, a real session at a fancy private gym in exchange for posting about the business. 

A strength of the film is its dismantling of the influencer economy, where influencers and profit-driven companies symbiotically support fake followers, 광주 성형외과 fake photos, fake everything.    

“As you can imagine,” Bilton says, “it’s not really in the best interest of bankers to ask if the people on the platforms are real, because the money surely is.”

But is all the fakery just P.T. Barnum for the 21st century? Or will the digital deception have some lasting impact on our understanding of truth? Maybe Fake Famous 2 can tackle those questions. I’d totally follow that. 

Jana Kramer confesses she's getting breast augmentation and lift

Jana Kramer is opening up about her internal debate about cosmetic surgery.

And 광주 성형외과 on Monday, after battling through her fear of the reactions she would potentially face, the actress and country singer announced she has decided to get a breast augmentation and 광주 성형외과 lift, in a lengthy statement on Instagram.

It turns out the bulk of her reasoning for having the surgery was based the changes to her body after having two kids, resulting in her feeling of ’embarrassment’ when she’s undressed.  

Open book: Jana Kramer, 37, announced she's decided to have a breast augmentation and lift

Open book: Jana Kramer, 37, announced she’s decided to have a breast augmentation and lift

The One Tree Hill alum, 37, began by sharing how she wanted to open up more personally and let her two million Instagram fans and followers in on ‘a deeper level.’ 

‘After many years of consideration I have decided to get a breast augmentation and lift.

I want to be open about WHY. First off, because “I” want to. That right there should be enough, but I feel like I need to explain the “I” part.’  

The Michigan native went on to share that she had previously considered having a breast augmentation ‘with everything that happened’ in her marriage, which was a reference to her husband, Mike Caussin’s multiple affairs, but reconciled that it ‘was never for “me.”‘

Honest: The actress and country singer explained her decision to have cosmetic surgery and how she was afraid to be honest on social media for fear of potential backlash

Honest: The actress and country singer explained her decision to have cosmetic surgery and how she was afraid to be honest on social media for fear of potential backlash

The insecurities with her body intensified following the birth of her second child in November 2018.

‘Things didn’t go back to normal, and I carry a lot of embarrassment when I’m undressed.

I don’t want to feel that way anymore. That was the “click” that showed I should follow through,’ she confessed with obvious emotion.

‘Before it was what I thought someone else wanted. Now it’s simple. “I”—and that’s a very capital ‘I”‘  

Kramer shared about how she has always had a small chest — and even recalled a time when she was body-shamed in the eighth grade by a boy who called her ‘flat as a board’ and literally took his binder to show me what that looked like.’ 

Personal decision: Kramer's main motivation for cosmetic surgery was the changes to her body after having two kids, resulting in her feeling of 'embarrassment' when she's undressed

Personal decision: Kramer’s main motivation for cosmetic surgery was the changes to her body after having two kids, resulting in her feeling of ’embarrassment’ when she’s undressed

The Why Ya Wanna singer reference to her husband, Mike Caussin's multiple affairs, but reconciled that it 'was never for "me."'

Personal strife: The Why Ya Wanna singer said she had previously considered having a breast augmentation ‘with everything that happened’ in her marriage, which was a reference to her husband, Mike Caussin’s multiple affairs

‘Bottom line, I’m choosing myself, I’m choosing my size, I’m doing what’s right for me.

I know a woman’s body is beautiful no matter what shape or size but I want this,’ she added. 

Kramer went on to share how she’s quite nervous and excited at the prospect of sharing her journey, while recognizing that her revelation comes on International Women’s Day.  

‘So I just ask ya’ll to celebrate this with me.

I’m at a place where I feel empowered to do what I want. I’m being honest about what it means. If you need a push to give yourself that same grace, here it is. No one knows what’s in another woman’s head. Or, for that matter, under their shirt. So do what’s right for you, and I’ll celebrate with you, too.’

She ended with the request: ‘I just ask you [to] celebrate women instead of [a]tear down. We all need support.’

Grateful: About four hours after sharing about her decision to move forward with cosmetic surgery, Kramer thanked people for their support

Grateful: About four hours after sharing about her decision to move forward with cosmetic surgery, Kramer thanked people for their support

Deep breath: The actress was relieved that people were being 'so kind' and 'supportive' in their comments on social media

Deep breath: The actress was relieved that people were being ‘so kind’ and ‘supportive’ in their comments on social media

About fours hours after her initial post about cosmetic surgery, Kramer took to her Instagram Story to thank people ‘for being supportive and so kind’ with their comments. 

She also shared how she’s been doing a lot of research about the surgery for the past few months, and then posed the question to her followers if they want to take the journey with her. 

‘I’m hoping to partner with a company that deals with implants because they have been very helpful with resources and data etc.’ 

Educating herself: The mother of two maintains she been doing a lot of research into breast augmentation over the last few months

Educating herself: The mother of two maintains she been doing a lot of research into breast augmentation over the last few months

Walk this way: The Dancing with the Stars alum posed the question of whether she should share her journey with her two million Instagram fans and followers

Walk this way: The Dancing with the Stars alum posed the question of whether she should share her journey with her two million Instagram fans and followers

Kramer and Caussin, 34, began dating in August 2014 but split up weeks later when she announced on social media that he cheated on her. 

They later reconciled, and got married in May 2015 in a rustic outdoor ceremony in Mike’s home state of Virginia.

After admitting he cheated again, the couple separated in 2016 when their daughter Jolie Rae was just seven months old.

But they did not give up.

Caussin sought treatment at a rehabilitation facility and the two have continued to try to rebuild their relationship, with some more bumps in the road, ever since.

The couple share two children together: daughter Jolie, five, and son Jace, two.  

Looking to partner: The Michigan native is hoping to partner with a company that deals with implants to help her tell her cosmetic surgery journey

Looking to partner: The Michigan native is hoping to partner with a company that deals with implants to help her tell her cosmetic surgery journey

Work in progress: Kramer and Caussin have had to work through his multiple affairs before and during their marriage in May 2015

Work in progress: Kramer and Caussin have had to work through his multiple affairs before and during their marriage in May 2015