- Kathleen O’Neill
- Caroline Calloway is an Instagram influencer who is in the spotlight again after her former friend and ghostwriter published a tell-all story in The Cut this week.
- But this isn’t the first time that Calloway has gotten attention for her antics: She became famous for documenting her thoughts in detail in long-winded stream-of-consciousness Instagram captions, and this past winter, she held $165 creativity workshops that were derided as scams.
- The internet can’t stop watching what’s next for Calloway as things plays out in real time, much like Fyre Festival: a glossy, viral sensation that people want to see fail.
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If you don’t know the name Caroline Calloway by this point, you haven’t been paying attention.
Calloway has become the influencer to follow, after the former ghostwriter of her lengthy Instagram captions and never-published memoir penned a tell-all first-person account in The Cut this week. The story from Natalie Beach offers details about how Calloway first propelled to Instagram fame as an American expat documenting her college life in the UK, and sharing stories that many of us would rather leave to our diaries, never to see the light of day.
On its surface, the story from The Cut publicizes a toxic friendship between an eager-to-please Beach and a fame-chasing Calloway. But that’s not why the story’s gotten so much attention and whipped up the internet into a hate-watch frenzy. A simple memoir about a toxic friendship wouldn’t drum up virtual crowds questioning the location of some mysteriously missing Yale-branded plates and a BuzzFeed quiz to see whether you’re more of a Natalie or a Caroline.
Rather, people can’t get enough of watching a dumpster fire play out in real time. Akin to the infamous Fyre Festival, viewers can’t stop following the modern-day soap opera of the trials and tribulations of a beautiful young influencer, even as things get weirder and weirder.
Some of my colleagues who just stumbled onto the Calloway name this week have since gotten sucked down the rabbit hole of coverage about the Instagram star. They’re just learning about Calloway’s $375,000 book deal, which Beach says she worked tirelessly on in a blur of Adderall and blind trust in her friend. They’re just catching up on Calloway’s $165 creativity workshops this past winter that were characterized by oat milk and philosophical one-liners, and were labeled by many as scams in line with the 2017 Fyre music festival in the Bahamas. They’re just now trying to piece together how Calloway got from buying Instagram followers to, now, being a viral trend on Twitter.
Although the hate-watching of Calloway may have just caught the attention of the mainstream, there are some who have been keeping an eye on Calloway’s antics for some time. It’s made easier by Calloway’s omnipresent minutes-long Instagram Stories and incredibly detailed stream-of-consciousness captions.
As a society, we simply love scammers. We can’t help but wait in anticipation for the multiple adaptations of the Elizabeth Holmes-Theranos scandal, binge episodes of MTV’s “Catfish,” and listen to the “Dirty John” podcast. As writer Abby Ellin put it in the New York Times: “People who break the social contract in such a protracted and consistent manner inspire both admiration (for the chutzpah it takes to dissemble consistently) and fear.”
In the case of notorious scammers like Anna Delvey or Billy McFarland, we’re left to rely on a few tell-all stories or lines of PR-filled comments to try to piece together their thought processes prior to, and during, their scandals. But when it comes to Calloway, we’re offered an unhinged diary in real-time that gives us a play-by-play into her “me versus the world” thought process, even if the pieces of the puzzle don’t necessarily fit together perfectly.
And for those that have been keeping an eye on Calloway for some time now, we know that Calloway isn’t even close to done.