Ingrid Goes West might be the first film that really nails what it’s like to live in today’s selfie-saturated world. Like a Black Mirror episode set in the present day, IGW follows a mentally ill woman named Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) who develops a fixation on an Instagram influencer named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) and begins gradually inserting herself into her life: ordering the food she orders, buying the accessories she wears, even renting a bungalow on the same ‘J. Tree’ block. Along with nailing the influencer aesthetic — all sun-drenched, succulent-filled California interiors and avocado toasts at Cafe Gratitude — IGW delves deep into the psychological ramifications of performing one’s identity online, and the pressure to curate a perfect self in a world where image is everything.
We talked to eight Instagram influencers to hear what they thought about the film, how they grapple with Instagram’s dark side, and whether Taylor’s feed would actually be worth a follow.
Coco Baudelle, @cocobaudelle, actress, model, and screenwriter, 54k followers.
My first instinct when I got out of the movie was to reach for my phone, and I had to ask myself if I was crazy, too. Like, Why are you doing this to yourself, why do you keep doing this? It was almost like looking at yourself in a mirror. I definitely see [people like Taylor] every day, and I know that we’re all characters. You know, you post stuff that looks better in the picture than it does in real life, and then you wait for the likes — that’s something we all do.
I watched the movie yesterday and then later I had to go to this event for the Olsen twins’ new perfumes. I was just invited to make an appearance; it wasn’t like I had to post anything, the PR company just invites me. I just went by myself ’cause all my friends are out of town. I got there, and there was not one soul in the room that I knew, and my first reflex was to FaceTime my best friend. I was telling him, I don’t know anybody here, this is weird, I don’t know what to do! And he was like, Well, just go make new friends. And I was like, How do you do that? What do you do? It’s not something I’ve done in person in the past two years. The past two years are when my Instagram became more of a tool for work, and it also became how I make friends; I basically have to go through Instagram all the time to make anything happen. So it was weird to not be able to use Instagram to approach these people. Anyway, we finally hung up and I asked if I could join the group, and I actually made friends and it was really cool. But it was mind-blowing for me to watch the movie and then an hour later have to meet people in real life and basically almost have a panic attack. So that’s the dark side.
Sophie Bickley and Charlotte Bickley, @yin_2my_yang, bloggers, 12k followers.
Charlotte: While we’re not as big as some of these other bloggers, we’re definitely on the rise and we’re super-proud of our authentic growth. Sometimes, from an outside perspective, people might not know a blogger’s life and just judge us and think we’re narcissistic — but Sophie and I look at ourselves as influencers and are trying to influence and bring positivity and inspire people. I think they could have maybe made Taylor’s character a bit more real, because someone who’s not an influencer will watch that and think, Oh I was completely right about Instagram, it’s just people who don’t really have passion and are trying to show off a fake lifestyle, and I don’t want people to feel that way about influencers and bloggers.
Sophie: However, we do understand how this can all be kind of dark. Because people are so obsessed with Instagrams and images, that’s almost what they care about most. We do get that the pictures represent something but they aren’t telling the whole story.
Charlotte: We collabed with this new upcoming swim brand and yesterday we took the photos and we’d eaten a lot the night before and we both felt bloated and gross. The photos came out great but it was torture, it literally took an hour. We’re toying with storying our funny behind-the-scenes stuff more, so people can see that, yeah, yesterday actually was a nightmare to shoot the bathing suit stuff, and it was hard, and everyone can relate to that.
We have a brand coordinator and he does tell us to go out to these trendy places and take photos and he gave us a list of places in the city we should be going, and he says we should be traveling. I definitely don’t think it’s a problem just to go to a place to take a photo, because you’re going to inspire people that want to do that. We’re out in the Hamptons this weekend and you’ll go to the Clam Bar or Surf Lodge, just, like, a super-generic place, but it’s great vibes and aesthetic. You want to curate an image, we’re working on that, and I think a lot of bloggers that are successful have a real aesthetic. But for us, we don’t go to the most cliché spots. We haven’t even done, like, sitting drinking a Cha Cha matcha in New York City.
Sophie: I’ve noticed that when our images do have a little bit of movement and are a bit quirky we get the most likes. For example, we took this shot one day coming out of the subway. We weren’t on the subway — we do take the subway everywhere, but that particular day we were just trying to take some Instagram shots — and we were wearing that millennial-pink color that always does well for us and we did really really well in terms of likes. There’s something about us doing stuff together and sharing our time as well as our fashion that really resonates with our audience.
Lauren Gill, @mylifeaslaurr, media planner, 14.5k followers.
I thought it was funny at the beginning when they were showing all the different posts: I was like, Wow, I definitely can relate to this and I see this across my feed a lot. Obviously everyone can appreciate some good latte art or macarons or avocado toast, but when you curate your feed to reflect your own personality, that’s when you can actually interact with your followers. In terms of trends right now, in fashion I’m seeing that Cult of Gaia bag a lot right now, the one that’s almost a semi-circle. I have seen that everywhere this summer. I think that influencers are just posting it because they see other people posting it, it’s honestly really not practical — it has holes in it, what would you even put in there?
From what they showed in the movie I definitely thought Taylor’s feed was curated well, she stuck with the same aesthetic the whole time. I would follow her! Something that’s really important when doing Instagram is to have the same color schemes and themes through all your posts, so I thought her aesthetic was good and she was doing a good job of posting interesting content, like what she was posting about her travels and the restaurants she was going to. I thought the photo at the gas station was a little extreme. I feel like people don’t normally do that when they’re trying to fix their car. I wouldn’t post something like that, sitting on the side of the road.
Barbara Dunkelman, @bdunkelman, social media and marketing director, 246k followers.
I haven’t had a stalker that I know of yet, but you notice the same people commenting on everything and liking everything and being very involved. I have people who will tweet at me every time I upload something on Snapchat, or even like something on Pinterest, like, Hey I liked that thing you posted. It’s like they’re constantly watching.
I think so much of social media is like someone’s demo reel, it’s the best of someone’s life, and not all of it is really accurate. So often I’ll be out with a group of friends and everyone will be on their phone, and it’s like, ‘Let’s take a picture,’ and everyone looks like they’re having a great time, and then everyone goes back to being on their phones. It’s just this fake thing of let’s show the world how much fun we’re having and how much fun our life is, but in reality you’re not very happy and not having a good time.
I’m very much someone who grew up not belonging, without a lot of friends and feeling like a bit of an outcast. Growing up now in a world with social media definitely brings back the sense of, Oh I’m the outcast and I didn’t get invited to this. Just always feeling like you’re left out every day and that everyone’s having more fun than you.
Molly Tavoletti, @mollytavoletti, photographer, 64k followers.
When she goes to that restaurant to get the avocado toast, that really resonated with me as a food person: I know for so many people it’s like, they just gotta go to this thing, they’ve gotta eat this thing, they’ve got to show people that they went there. I care about food so much that sometimes I get frustrated, because it really is this weird gimmick — like, if you have a cool neon sign and you have food that’s kind of okay and enough people post about it, it works. People don’t care who the chef is.
When I walked out of the movie, I was like, I don’t even know if I want to open Instagram right now, I’m just going to take a little minute. And I have a group text with some of my guy friends, including my boyfriend, who are all photographers and have pretty prominent Instagrams as well. So I come out and I have like 21 texts in this group and I’m scrolling through — they were doing a takeover and one of the photos of food wasn’t doing as well as one of the architecture ones, and they were having this conversation like, Oh sometimes environmental photos do better and Well, look at the likes. I was like, Guys, I just saw this movie, and I cannot have this conversation with you right now.
Mariah Strongin, @mariahstrongin, model and actress, 18k followers.
I love Instagram, it has become obviously what the world goes to and everyone uses, and I find it personally really good for my industry because I’m able to do a lot of research on it. The film scared the crap out of me only because I know how much I used geotags and I never realized something that extreme could actually happen. I had a crazy thing actually happen to me the week before I went to the movie — I literally had gone out to workout and gone to the Juice Press for a second — and a girl sent me a message saying she just saw me at Juice Press and I was like, Ah, that’s so creepy, how in the world did you know I was there?
I found Taylor’s character to be very real. I don’t know if that’s just because I’m used to it. I thought Taylor was a super-normal girl who found herself on Instagram and took advantage of it and loved it and it ended up being her life. Taylor’s Instagram was definitely stunning and her photos were very bright and bubbly and well done — I would definitely look at her page and say, I need to go there, that’s delicious.
Emily Sundberg, @sheloveseverything, Instagram editor at the Cut, 27k followers.
The part of the movie that was most like, Oh shit, that’s me was the physicality of Ingrid with her phone — how she needed it on her at all times and was screaming when it died, and how it was the first thing she asked for in her hospital bed. I feel like that’s me all the time. I’ve also had an iPhone in my hand for nine years, which is crazy. I feel like the Apple Store is my second home sometimes. The physical connection people have with their phones is so, so real, especially with influencers — I go out with people and they have these crazy contraptions for lighting and charging. This is my life, and it’s psycho.
The hypercurated feed — posting the perfect parts of your life, the perfect meals — that’s kind of something everyone deals with. There’s definitely a formula to what does well: a sunset, or a farm wedding. It was the same thing as food Instagrams originally, you just had to shoot something that was very cheesy or chocolatey and you’d get followers and do well. I guess for the majority of the population what’s desirable is desirable. Grain bowls are desirable. But if you have a lot of followers, you’re also setting the standard of what’s cool.
One thing that stuck out is that you can make such large amounts of money from this app. It was one of the most surprising things to my friends and family when I first had my Instagram: They didn’t understand how I was going out to these incredible restaurants that my parents would never be able to eat at, or go to Vegas for free. Like, in the city you meet people and they say I’m an Instagrammer as a job title.
Also, did you catch on that Ingrid is like, in grid? Like, in the grid of the phone. I didn’t know if that was intentional.