European summers, fleeting romances, the University of Cambridge and the kind of social media presence that has us all thrilled, Caroline Calloway was one of the influencers who dominated Instagram in its early days.
If you haven’t heard of Calloway — or maybe you need a refresher on her Instagram adventures — she was the one-paragraph caption-writing influencer who revealed every little detail. of his life to his followers and quickly became the talk of the internet. . It wasn’t just his personal life that obsessed us all, it was also the increasingly alarming stories that were coming in from his followers. Calloway turned to a number of different money-making ventures: workshops, merchandise, her well-known “snake oil,” and a book about her crook persona. Many of them fell flat with her followers or became laughing stock on the internet.
She became the uncancellable influencer, who instead of running from the scandals that were breaking out about her, turned them into her new online identity.
And she’s at the center of the brand new BBC Three documentary, My friend Insta Scammer. The unique film explores the wonder of social media in all its improbable glory.
As the synopsis says, “In the age of social media, we have more access to the privacy of celebrities and influencers than ever before. But do we really know our favorite online friends? This film explores the murky and, at worst, toxic relationship between an influencer and her followers.
“The infamous viral scandals of pioneering internet sensation Caroline Calloway have captivated audiences around the world, with some of her subscribers feeling duped and scammed. But why have Caroline’s actions garnered so much attention? And what must influencers to their followers who have built the very foundations of their success?
If you get Invent Anna vibes from the premise alone, you’re not far off from Calloway’s own escapades. In 2016, she was a firm Instagram hit and had almost six times as many followers as Dua Lipa at the time, according to the documentary. She then revealed an addiction to prescription drugs, the fact that she cheated on her boyfriend, why she rejected her first book deal and promised authenticity on the platform in the future.
Let’s not forget the time she cut out patterned paper to create Matisse-inspired collages her followers would rush to buy in her Instagram stories, as well as annotated copies of her previous book proposal and line drawings that looked more like doodles than contemporary modern art. The price rose every time she dropped those paintings, but her world tour of events – dubbed “creativity workshops” – would become Calloway’s road to infamy. Many of his fans were thrilled to meet their internet idol for the first time, but were charged $167 (£138) for the privilege.
The entertainment promised the making of flower crowns, as well as discussions on the floor of a loft with tea or coffee and house salads. “Almost immediately after selling the tickets, she started backtracking on her promises, posting these stories that all of a sudden took something away from the workshops,” a follower reveals in the documentary.
For one workshop, she even posted an Instagram story asking if attendees could bring a packed lunch in exchange for extending the workshop for an additional 30 minutes. She was still planning other tour cities, promising to refund fans at the last minute, and basically everything became a bit of a disorganized mess.
“When I realized the lack of planning, I was just in disbelief. Of what Caroline had promised, she failed to organize 99% of it, I would say,” the same follower describes and then details how Calloway blocked on Instagram after asking for a refund.
The mess of this situation is just a glimpse of how Calloway has shamelessly moved around the internet, piercing us all. And when it aired last night (Thursday, July 28), viewers and former Calloway fans were quick to react to the new documentary.
Calloway’s legacy is one that this documentary most certainly highlights.
The documentary was the kind of deep dive that many avid netizens have wanted for years.
But really, it also raises questions about influencer culture, proximity, and overuse of Instagram.
What My friend Insta Scammer promises is to leave you surprised by Calloway’s actions, but will also leave you questioning our relationship with Instagram and its influencers in an increasingly online world. So whether you know Calloway or not, this documentary is sure to give you a lot to think about.
My friend Insta Scammer is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.