Live, Play, Shoot

Hipster Barbie and the Meaning of Authenticity

September 17, 2015

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, you’ve probably heard about Socality Barbie, the plastic Instagram star who brilliantly parodies hipster-esque outdoorsy accounts down to the tiniest detail.

I have taken a few (but really, just a few!) of the types of photos she mocks and have consumed – and enjoyed – many more. I think she’s hilarious. We can all laugh at ourselves a little bit, right?

What I like the most about her, though, is that she has opened up a discussion about the meaning of authentic nature experiences in our highly technological and world. She has broken the ice on what has become a big trend in photography and on social media: staged photos of people who appear to be so in the moment.

When I first shared the link to Socality Barbie on my personal Facebook page, the responses ranged from “Yes! I love Instagram but this is hilarious!” to “Yes! I hate Instagram. Everything is so fake.” Responses in the blogosphere have both praised and lauded her – thanking her for making light of these oh-so-serious outdoor photos and blasting her for being a bully.

If nothing else, she has definitely gotten us talking.

I’ve had an Instagram account for a while but it wasn’t until this past year that I began to use it to follow people beyond my circle of friends. I had always thought of Instagram as a place to share pictures of your kids, dogs, and desserts and was, honestly, blown away by some of the photos I saw there. There is some insane talent on that little corner of the internet.

And when I started noticing all of the stunning and obviously staged photos of beautiful people in beautiful places? I was all in. I followed a ton of those accounts. Who doesn’t like looking at pretty pictures?

But after a while I started rolling my eyes just a tiny bit at some of the things that I saw. The most grating, to me, were the people posting serious-looking photos of themselves, staring off into the sunset, coming up with big answers to big questions …. while blatantly holding a selfie stick in their hand. Nothing about that feels authentic. It just looks silly.

I don’t mind the staged, perfectly lit photos on Instagram (or anywhere else) because I see them as art. And while they have certainly strayed from the original purpose of Instagram (yanno, the “Insta” part?), they’re beautiful to look at and can be examples of great photos made by very skilled photographers. The image that these photos show (the perfect pour over coffee made on the top of a mountain? the woman wrapped in a Pendleton blanket, gazing off at the ocean?) may not be authentic in that very moment but the feeling that the photographer is trying to create is. That’s not inauthenticity – that’s photography.

We all know that, while those moments may certainly happen, life does not look like an Instagram feed. Does anyone really believe that people spend that much time walking on train tracks in fancy wide-brimmed hats? We all know that this is rarely what life looks like. I’m ok with that.

But I’m also bored with it.

After following a ton of these accounts in my early days of Instagram, I’ve started to jump ship and put the unfollow button to use. I keep some of these accounts around because the photos really are gorgeous to look at, but I want to see something different. It’s not the staging of photos that bugs me (because, let’s be honest, most great photos ARE staged, at least to some degree), it’s the repetitiveness of it all. It’s seeing the same types of pictures taken in the same places over and over again.

Show me something different. Show me something that looks authentic – or at least doesn’t look exactly like everyone else’s version of authentic.

Socality Barbie’s brilliance is in her ability to nail the tiniest details of an entire genre of photos and to make us laugh at the silliness of it all. And I’m totally on board with that.

What are your thoughts on Socality Barbie? Is she funny? Mean? Both? Tell me what you think!

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  • Reply Patty Limaco September 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Ok, I apparently live under a rock. That instagram is hysterical! Everyone needs to be able to take a step back and laugh at themselves once in awhile. My IG is heavily filled with photos of my dogs and my dogs doing sports. I can definitely laugh at the fact I am very much a crazy dog lady because lets face it, if you post a photo of your car filled with 5 crates…you are in fact a crazy dog lady. I do agree IG isn’t so much about being instant anymore but more of a platform to share photos. I have found some amazing photographers to follow, they are all hobbyist photographers and oh so talented.

    • Reply jendz September 17, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      So funny, right?! I agree – we all need to be able to laugh at each other. At various times I’ve been the crazy dog lady, the crazy donkey lady, and the crazy chicken lady. No shame there. There are so many amazing photographers on Instagram! It’s probably my favorite social media platform.

  • Reply Lindsey September 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Okay, I’ve had this page open on my computer for 2 days now meaning to respond, to say: yes, great post! It’s funny, people keep sending me this Instagram account, and I’ve had such mixed feelings on it. MOSTLY though, I totally love that it does make some commentary about social media and authenticity, and the idea that what we see is very much curated, and not always as organic as it seems (which is totally okay, but I think it’s important to acknowledge). I think this especially hit home for me, coming off a year of working full time at a museum with very little time off, and looking at Instagram during work breaks and thinking “how are these people living this life, and I’m here at work??” In reality, who knows what their daily life is like. Anyways, all this to say, great post, I enjoyed your thoughts!

    • Reply jendz September 19, 2015 at 10:56 pm

      Yes, totally! I think it’s important to keep social media in perspective. Most people are NOT out playing 24/7 … even if it looks like that on Instagram.

  • Reply Doug September 20, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    I’ve been kicking this topic around in my head for a couple of days. It lead me to the question “what is authentic?” Is it just being me and if so, who is me? I’m gonna have to go read some philosophy now. lol.

    Anyway, Hipster Barbie is hilarious. If it offends someone, it’s because it hit too close to home. Your friend Patty loves dogs, so her instagram is filled with dogs. Mine is filled with pictures (poorly taken pictures) of me and my peeps smiling because that’s what makes me happy and I want to share that happiness. Your pictures are of the boys, you, and Colorful Colorado! because that is what you love.

    Our instagram accounts are just pictures of what we love. That’s authentic. When it’s full of pictures that you think other people will love, well that’s the other side of authentic.

    • Reply jendz September 20, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      You make a really good point about our IG accounts just being about what we love (vs what we think others love) and that, on it’s own being authentic. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I think you’re right.

      • Reply Doug September 21, 2015 at 11:05 pm

        My last sentence, “When it’s full of pictures that you think other people will love, well that’s the other side of authentic.” is poorly written. I should have said “…pictures of SUBJECTS that you think other people will love…”. I take pictures that I hope my mom likes all the time. 😉

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