HBO Doc Fake Famous Helped Me Enjoy Instagram Again

Heidi Alice Suydam
May 4 · 9 min read

An honest review from an Instagram blogger.

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

The bright, light pink background with white words that popped off the screen loudly spelling out “Fake Famous” drew me right in. These catchy words led me to an intriguing trailer all about Instagram fame. I was hooked!

Not only do I love documentaries. I love Instagram. Well, I did. Now I do again.

To see the amazing HBO logo check this out. I am not posting it to avoid copywrite infringements.

When Fake Famous made its debut on February 2nd, 2021 I was in a social media slump. Spinning my wheels as a writer trying to grow my platform. For me, this meant I spent a lot of time for little reward. Small, slow growth at best. Declining growth at worst.

I was sucked into the social media vortex. Instead of using social media, the social media machine was using me. I was spending so much time (and money!) trying to manage my social media. Thinking I could beat the algorithm or at least break into it. I was feeding the system and making it grow while I was shrinking in every area.

My writing was inconsistent to non-existent.

My “followers” were increasing at a painfully slow rate or stagnant!

My “friends” were getting little of my time or effort online or in real life (and not because of quarantine)!

PIN THIS for later | Image created by Heidi Suydam via Canva | PIN THIS for later

Then, I stumbled upon Fake Famous.

Nick Bilton’s is a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair, a New York Times-bestselling author, a screenwriter, former columnist for The New York Times, and former adjunct professor for N.Y.U. He is also the host of the popular podcast, “Inside the Hive with Nick Bilton.”

Bilton’s reporting spans technology, culture, society, the future, and politics. His reporting is credited with helping force the F.A.A. to overturn their longtime ban on using cell phones, iPads and Kindles on airplanes. His investigative reporting has been cited in congressional inquiries, Federal investigations, criminal cases, and in dozens of books. He regularly appears on television news channels, including BBC, Fox Business, CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning.

It’s nice to know a little bit about the who behind what is being reported. Everyone has a bias. No matter how unbiased we try to be when researching or reporting on a topic.

Mr. Bilton has an investigative bias to uncover something, to answer a question, to find out more and report what he finds. I appreciate the social experiment approach he used with Fake Famous. He certainly had a hypothesis but due to his well-rounded resume I trust he was honest about his discoveries along the way.

The Experiment

From 1,000’s of interviews three lucky humans were selected to participate as the subjects of the documentary. All from different parts of the US but currently living in LA.

  • A struggling actress from Miami with no famous ties or big acting jobs. Dominique Druckerman was working in a distribution center packaging online orders during filming. She had about 1000 followers in 2019 when she was selected for the HBO documentary.
  • A real-estate assistant living in LA but originally from Georgia, Wylie Heiner. Wylie also had about 1000 followers when filming began.
  • A young artist from Tuscon, Arizona with fashion designer dreams, Chris Bailey. Chris had the most followers at the start of the experiment with about 2200.

After the 3 subjects were selected the makeovers began. Hair, makeup and photoshoots. Then “on location” photoshoots.

“On location” on bougie vacations? In private jets? You’ll have to watch it to see the full picture. Pun intended — I like puns :)

Bots are big business.

When I saw how easy it is to fake fancy vacations, special treatment from retailers, “free” experiences that aren’t really free. I was shocked (call me naive, it’s ok)! Do people really do that? The answer is, yes!

When approaching social media we need to remember what it is. Some people truly are authentic. Some are not.

Then I learned the bot business is very real. Not only real but a multi-million dollar business. I did my own research after watching Fake Famous. A quick search and this is what I found:

You can see from my brief search the bot business is a real business in full swing. It is not a myth. These services are being used all the time. This image is from the first page of my quick search.

Done. I was just done. Mind blown.

In a good way though because I realized there is no “beating the algorithm”. The algorithm is not something to be beat. At least not for the little guys like me, unless I want to spend a lot of money and time on social media as my main focus. The answer for me is no.

The menacing thought of the elusive algorithm no longer matters to me. At all.

If you are working on your social media following, you might think — how discouraging, why even try anymore? Flip that script! This information was so freeing!

I found myself excited to approach Instagram again!

I no longer worry about 30 hashtags, staying on the platform for X amount of time before and after I post, posting at the same time every day, replying to every comment as fast as possible, planning out my content for months at a time. All the things that were starting to make my social media feel forced.

Not only that, following all the “rules” to try to beat the algorithm and grow my followers was not making a difference. I know this because I admittedly (prior to Fake Famous) tried to dip my own toes in the influencer realm for a while.

I was sucked into the social media vortex. Instead of using social media, the social media machine was using me.

I posted a few sponsored posts, I tried different posting schedules like Monday Mindsets and Tip Tuesdays. I paid for social media management tools. You will see selfie after selfie for a while in my feed because for some reason selfie’s do get the most traffic. I guess we all like to see faces? I do still post my face by the way, just not as often.

I purposefully have never deleted a post. Scrolling all the way back to 2014 when I started @simplyoursocietyblog on Instagram you can see my multiple attempts to find my insta-groove.

Now I approach my social media in a more natural way. Instead of always planned out it has a flow I am comfortable with. It just feels better. I am focusing more on writing instead of social media.

Establishing myself as a writer is why I started social media accounts like #thesosblog Instagram account to begin with! I do realize, good writing attracts readers. Many of my fellow writers remind me to keep writing and readers will come.

Kind of like that old Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams. “If you build it they will come.” Great content will attract an audience.

image created by Heidi Suydam on Canva

Self-promotion comes with the territory as an independent writer and that include social media.

Instagram is my go-to social media platform. Fake Famous set me free by sharing information I may not have otherwise discovered in a way that was engaging, educational, and not at all defamatory to the platform itself.

In my opinion, Nick Bilton conducted a creative experiment and through the process, he shared about big businesses doing what they do best — earn money. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

He shared how anybody can become Instagram famous by following certain steps. Steps that prior to Fake Famous I knew nothing about. Steps that, after knowing what they are, still choose not to participate in. I also don’t see anything wrong with that or those who choose that route to insta-fame.

Instagram is my go-to social media platform. Fake Famous set me free by sharing information I may not have otherwise discovered in a way that was engaging, educational, and not at all defamatory to the platform itself.

When approaching social media we need to remember what it is. Some people truly are authentic. Some are not. Sadly we see that when social media famous people fall from their self-made pedestals and their carefully curated worlds start crumbling down. It is sad because behind all the curation there are real people who are obviously struggling. It is especially sad when these situations involve children.

Remember this family?

YouTuber Myka Stauffer ‘Rehomed’ Her Adopted Son, Huxley (thecut.com)

Or this Instagram Influencer who’s influence recently diminished because her true colors came shining through :

Once Again, Rachel Hollis Wants You to Know She’s Better Than You… | by Shannon Ashley | Honestly Yours | Apr, 2021 | Medium

Some people are real on social media.

They are earning a good living from these platforms being true to themselves and their audiences. They fall somewhere in the middle between those of us using socials to connect and support each other and those seeking big-time insta-fame at all costs.

Social Media, if you love it or hate it, provides a great way for everyone across the globe to connect. It provides a way for people to build businesses. A way for anyone to seek some sort of fame, if that’s what they desire.

Fame is fame regardless of how it is acquired.

The old saying “fake it til you make it” is 100% accurate as shown in this HBO documentary.

For me, Fake Famous was educational. It gave me a fresh start on social media and for that I am grateful. With all this new information I am now empowered to get off the hamster wheel to simply enjoy the platform!

No more algorithm hamster wheel = a lot more time to write!

Watch the Preview for Fake Famous here:

You can catch the full version on HBO or Amazon Prime.

Wondering what happened to the chosen 3?

  • Dominique Druckman, who stuck it out for the entire experiment doing everything she was asked to do, now has 348K followers on Instagram and is enjoying a more successful acting career in addition to Instagram Influencer status perks.
  • Chris Bailey, who quit part way in to the experiment still gained some fame from the series and has 25.5K followers on Instagram and is following his passion for fashion.
  • Wylie Heiner also quit part way through the experiment but he also gained a level of insta fame with 29.1K followers.

Article Sources:

Marissa Delatto: “HBO’s ‘Fake Famous’ reveals the tricks influencers use to gain followers” NYPost.com 2 Feb. 2021

Stephanie McNeal: “This HBO Documentary About Influencers Is So Condescending” Buzfeed News 5 Feb. 2021

Danielle Turchiano: “Nick Bilton on Creating Instagram Influencers for Social Experiment Documentary ‘Fake Famous’ ” Variety 2 Feb. 2021

Average Alice

Writings by Heidi Alice Suydam

Heidi Alice Suydam

Written by

full-time average mom, part-time grocery store employee, part-time writer. Founder of #thesosblog www.simplyoursociety.com & Average Alice (on Medium).

Average Alice

Average suburban housewife turned grocery store clerk because 2020, part-time writer and Pinterest Pin Designer (find me on Fiverr).

Heidi Alice Suydam

Written by

full-time average mom, part-time grocery store employee, part-time writer. Founder of #thesosblog www.simplyoursociety.com & Average Alice (on Medium).

Average Alice

Average suburban housewife turned grocery store clerk because 2020, part-time writer and Pinterest Pin Designer (find me on Fiverr).

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