How social media amplifies the rise and fall of scam culture

How social media amplifies the rise and fall of scam culture

Image Source: Vanity Fair

By Faye Couros | @CourosFaye

This is reality TV star Khloe Kardashian posing on her Instagram with a detox shake.

In it, she has flat abs and every other object in the room is a pretty shade of pink.


Image Source: Khloe Kardashian Instagram @khloekardashian

This is a scam.

It feels like detox teas and shakes are every Instagram influencer’s backbone; a trophy validating their success as a pretty, young thing standing out against the others.

Celebrities like the Kardashians, Demi Lovato, Cardi B, and so many more, have promoted this product to fans as the ultimate way to lose weight and stay healthy.

However, let’s be honest.

They probably aren’t chowing down these glorified laxatives.

That’s because these ‘healthy’ teas have been proven to have adverse side effects.

A 2016 ABC News article reported that detox shakes and teas were making young women feel sick and tired, causing long-term health and mental issues, which over time makes your insides pay the price.

Nevertheless, if you look through your Instagram Explore feed, you are likely to come across an influencer promoting a similar drink.

A product that would have been an annoying advertisement on TV a decade ago now thrives on Instagram in our booming digital age.

However, this isn’t the only scam born and breed on social media.

Enter: Fyre Festival.

In the summer of 2019, everyone was tuned into at least one of the two documentaries about Fyre Festival – a ‘luxury music festival’ set to take place in The Bahamas in 2017.

Audiences watched on as supermodels frolicked across a foreign pristine beach in well-paid flash advertisements, as the documentary explored how celebrities and socialites were paid to post about the festival on their Instagram profiles.

It was a perfect marketing plan, except the catch was that there was no festival.

Fyre Festival’s Instagram marketing went viral, thanks to the ingenious mind of Billy McFarland – co-founder of Fyre and now convicted fraudster – but the hundreds of memes its failure spawned now dwarf its success.


Image Source: Cheezburger

The Huffington Post published an article last month detailing our generation’s obsession with scams involving rich people.

The article claimed it validates our ego because we feel satisfied that even though we aren’t ‘rich’ or ‘successful’, at least we didn’t fall for a scam.

Essentially, watching rich people humiliated by their misjudgment makes the rest of us feel superior.

Simply knowing there are people out there drinking fit teas and buying tickets to fake festivals makes Instagram all the more satisfying, and the Twitter comments hilarious.

Lying comfortably in bed and mocking people without consequence is basically Internet culture, which is why scammer stories thrive on social media.

Anna Delvey is the latest scammer to capture the media’s obsession with social media scammers.

The 28-year-old positioned herself as a German heiress in New York’s high society, acquaintances and businesses out of an estimated $275,000.

Last week Ms Delvey was found guilty of the charges of second-degree grand larceny, theft of services, and first-degree attempted larceny.

However, Ms Delvey’s story didn’t explode into international interest until her court appearances began.

Ms Delvey hired celebrity stylist Anastasia Walker to curate looks for her, and her little black choker captured the attention of international news.

Yes, apparently there is quite a bit of sartorial power in a tiny choker necklace.

There was even an Instagram dedicated to Ms Delvey’s court outfits, and of course, she will now live and die by that meme.

Ms Delvey and Mr McFarland’s scams are similar because they both use blatant narcissism to deceive the upper classes.

A Vox article dubbed 2019 as ‘the summer of scam’, and analysed why exactly we love these stories so much.

In the article, con artist expert Maria Konnikova discussed the psychology behind our obsession.

She explained how social media allows scammers to thrive faster, and how it reduces the barriers that may inhibit their ability to succeed in ploys.

Ms Konnikova said social media is a popular platform for scammers as it is simple to take advantage of people’s insecurities online and show victims a reality worth falling for, even if it’s completely fabricated.

Therefore, the insecurities amplified by Instagram, such as the desire to be thin, pretty and rich, are what make detox tea companies wealthy by the minute.

Rich people become successful by selling us slimming drinks and scam products through celebrity endorsements because we are insecure, and then when said rich people fall victim to scams themselves, we get to relish in their downfall.



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