By 2019, we’ve worked out that possibly the ultra curated photo-spreads we post to Instagram are, perhaps, not always representative of the grubby banality that colours our day-to-day existence (except mine of course, so candid, all natural, I really am that perfect).
No one embodies this disingenuity more than Caroline Calloway, a very ordinary influencer who somehow has achieved extraordinary white hot internet fame via the perfect storm of:
ii) and now, the cherry on top: a personal essay published on The Cut by former friend and ‘ghostwriter’ (does writing cloying Instagram captions now qualify you as a ghostwriter? If so, I am owed back payments by several people), Natalie Beach.
The essay said nothing new or incisive about either Caroline or the politics of female friendship in general. It was not-particularly good writing about a not-particularly good relationship.
Natalie lobbed a litany of accusations, which I suppose were meant to be proof of Caroline being The Worst Friend Ever, but mostly just confirmed her to be scatty and privileged (do rich white girls really need more attention? Really?) but little else. While there was definite thoughtlessness and an exploitative dynamic to the relationship (see Caroline asking Natalie to act as a paid concierge, rather than let her sublet her apartment), other incidents read merely as miscommunications — like Caroline falling asleep after thinking her friend was having an all-night tryst with a Dutch bartender and accidentally locking Natalie out while on a European jaunt.
What instead shone through the essay was a much smaller, sadder tale. It was one of a self-professed ugly duckling who was drawn into the orbit of someone they perceived to be shinier, but later grew to resent the unbalanced friendship they had built. That and the messy reality (and exposed wood flooring) that squatted behind the idyllic Insta captions they created together.
I think at times, we have all felt the sharp pang of envy as we watched someone who we deemed to be more – more beautiful, cleverer, more charismatic, wealthier, more anything than us – navigate the world in ways we could only dream of. Some of us learned to shelve that bitterness, to uproot ourselves from friendships that shrunk us, to unfollow influencers who caused us to look at our reflections with a little less charity and joy, rather than live life in the shade of others. And to remember that however perfect we might consider the lives of these people, behind every faux-candid there lies Adderall, a sleepless night in Amsterdam and a bitterly discontented friend who will one day pen a sprawling essay about how shit you are, for the entire internet to pore over. Big mood.