Insta-Barbie pokes fun at hipsterdom


Here she is on the sand, barefoot in the lapping waves, wearing cropped skinny jeans and shoulder-robing a blanket. Here she is in the mountains, wearing a beanie that perfectly offsets hair blow-dried into soft waves. Oh, and look, here’s a still-life shot of her weekend-away wardrobe laid out on hardwood floors. She’s taking high-heeled hiking boots. But then, she is a Barbie doll.

Socality Barbie, the newest social-media sensation, is on a mission to take down Instagram from the inside. The account is the brainchild of an anonymous wedding photographer in Oregon, who dresses a Barbie doll in mini-hipster outfits and posts Instagram shots of doll-sized hikes (always sunny, lots of photogenic light shafts through the trees), coffee dates (whitewashed wooden tables and a calm atmosphere) and boyfriends (checked shirt, facial hair).

It’s not exactly satire – I don’t think you can really satirise Instagram; that would be like satirising kittens – but Socality Barbie skewers something about how plastic Instagram has become. She is the Rosa Parks of a society oppressed by images of thigh gaps and tyrannised by heavily filtered brunches. She is taking a brave stand against – okay, poking fun at – the disproportionate power and influence of Instagram.

Let me get one thing straight: I love Instagram. I am addicted. Sometimes I wake up in the night and, half asleep, reach for my phone and start scrolling through my feed, which at that hour is Lily-Rose Depp in novelty socks, people I vaguely know in New York taking overlit selfies in bars and insomniacs posting throwback photos with mawkish captions. And I love it. So I am not about to declare Instagram over. Anyway, that would be idiotic: in 2012, Facebook paid $1-billion to buy it; it is now valued at $35-billion. And in fashion, Instagram is everything. It has catwalk shows in real time and street style from all over the world, plus you get to see every time someone you know buys a new coat. What more could I possibly want?

But what Instagram isn’t any more is cutting edge. Instead of being hip, it is a world of commodified hipsterdom. All pigeon-toed loafers on pretty tiled floors and nail art on a hand holding a street-truck burger. It is a guilty pleasure, a cosy comforting world where everyone dresses really well and is also, like, super-nice.

It is a bit like watching reality TV. You get to watch attractive people living their lives at a level of apparent intimacy that makes it compelling. The trouble is they all look the same.

The creator of Socality Barbie told Wired that the idea came to her because “people were all taking the same pictures in the same places and using the same captions”. She says: “I couldn’t tell any of their pictures apart so I thought: ‘What better way to make my point than with a mass-produced doll?’?”

Two weeks ago, Socality Barbie had 7 000 followers; she now has more than a million. “I think it’s because she’s so relatable,” says the photographer. “Either your Instagram looks just like hers or you know at least one person whose Instagram does.” – ©?Guardian News & Media 2015

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