By Olivia Montes
Elm Staff Writer
In the modern digitalized world, humans have managed to create profiles of their lives and upload them to various social media sites for all the world to see, with the most popular being Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, and Facebook.
But with the high amount of people portraying their lives online, after a while, it seems too good to be true for all kinds of accounts, especially those that constantly brag through their posts about the highly successful business they have managed to get up and running.
However, there is one social media account that seeks to pull back the curtain and show followers the truth behind these supposed up-and-coming business moguls.
Known as @BallerBusters, their mission is simple: “to expose phony entrepreneurs”, according to The New York Times’s Taylor Lorenz.
“Using a mix of screen-shotted receipts, memes and crowdsourced information from followers, the account seeks out people who don’t ‘act their wage’,” Lorenz said on Nov. 12, 2019.
“Often, [@BallerBusters’ targets] are people who call themselves entrepreneurs and who brag about their money, cars, watches or influence, but seem as if they don’t have the cash to back it up,” she said.
As a social media outlet, Instagram provides users the opportunities to creatively expand their universe by posting pictures of their everyday lives, with o a number of extraordinary photos in the shuffle meant to stir up envy amongst their followers.
However, when it comes to entrepreneurs, they believe that the first objective for establishing an effective position online is to build hype by making it look like their respective businesses are successful, thereby persuading others engulfed by the high-profile images they see on-screen to follow in their footsteps.
“Instagram has always been good for all kinds of braggers,” Lorenz said. “But the administrator behind ‘@BallerBusters’ believes a new breed of scammer is running rampant on social media: the young business guru.”
The “young business guru” identity, as Lorenz describes it, is one of the many subcategories of an ongoing trend of social media users known as ‘influencers’, or those who market off popular consumer brands to gain more followers for their respective companies.
With influencers, an entire new expectation has been steadily released: to adopt a completely new kind of lifestyle, promoting yourself as a brand rather than as an individual person with individual tastes.
“In the past few years, the term ‘influencer’ has become virtually unavoidable,” The Daily Beast’s Tarpley Hitt said in 2018. “It’s been embraced by ad agencies… adopted by retailers… welcomed into the lexicon of mainstream media… and cited so often by critics as an emblem of cultural decay— a kind of shorthand for the perversions of late capitalism.”
The goal: not only to put an entirely new different brand or product on display for followers to see, but also to promote an obtainable, impossible fake life on social media for the entire World Wide Web to witness.
“It’s a motley crew of the digitally famous, brought together only by their dedicated online presence, their massive followings and the fact that they get money to maintain both,” Hitt said.
As The New York Times’ Valeriya Safronova wrote in her article “On Fake Instagram, A Chance to be Real” in 2015, that number of influencers has only increased — and continues to do so — since Instagram’s connected launch back in 2010.
“A scroll through a typical feed is likely to reveal improbable images of just the right artisanal pizza, attractive couples drunk in love and eyebrows ‘on fleek’, all captured in perfect light and enhanced with various editing tools,” Safronova said.
“[That] pressure among Instagram’s regular users to present idealized images of themselves has only increased, as [users] have inundated the platform with their own envy-evoking posts,” she said.
With accounts like @BallerBusters, aiming to serve as a reality check for those constantly scrolling through young, successful businessperson’s accounts wishing to obtain that same rich, fulfilling life portrayed on social media, followers can identify what is and isn’t real online.
The account serves as a reminder that those posing on social media are not all they seem to be on screen, providing insight on how powerful faux influencers can convince devoted followers of obtaining the same economically successful lifestyle displayed on Instagram through the same process: false advertising.
But in the process, their lives end up becoming exactly what their account has become: a scam.
“They are pervasive on Instagram,” Lorenz said. “Their avatars feature corporate head shots or photos of themselves onstage, apparently mid-TED Talk; their online following looks huge; [and] their feeds portray a lavish life full of cars, money and women used as props.”
“All these spoils can be yours, they promise — for a price,” she said.