Going into the uni break, I was ready to really get to work. I was committed to catching up on the many assignments, readings, and lectures I had missed to binge the endless stream of Netflix content. Not excited about it, but committed. However, with one fell swipe through Twitter, I found myself addicted to reading about the Caroline Calloway drama and any hope for productivity was gone. My Canvas and email tabs was closed for two weeks, replaced with her Instagram and Refinery 29 articles she has ‘written’.
For those uninitiated, Caroline Calloway is a New York based Instagram *influencer*, with an apartment filled with plants and a head littered with flowers. She was thought to have built her presence online through the hashtag #adventuregram and long-winded, romantic tales of studying abroad at the high class University of Cambridge, but it turns out she bought them as the app was first gaining popularity. Currently, her follower count sits at about 800k and her posts are concerned with ex-friends, ex-boyfriend and the occasional Matisse copycat. Calloway’s reputation has been under constant scrutiny since 2017, when she announced her $500,000 book deal was cancelled. The following year, she sold tickets to creativity workshops and seminars which were planned to tour the US, UK and Europe. It fell apart due to poor planning, and was cancelled after Calloway discovered a detailed Twitter thread that accused her of being a scammer. Since then, her financial situation and pill addiction has been consistently addressed in public forums and in the comments of her Instagram.
In the latest ‘scandal’, Natalie Beach, Calloway’s former best friend and ghost-writer, has released a tell-all article which recounts her experience in knowing and writing for the Instagram icon. The 6,000 word story has swept internet news sites, such as the esteemed Buzzfeed news, by storm. Beach describes the intense and ‘toxic’ friendship she shared with Calloway, and her once constant yearning to be more like her. Interestingly, she talks about this jealousy in terms of male attraction, speaking on her own difficulty to create positive relationships with men. Beach reflects on her first impression of Calloway, describing her in detail; “We were both 20-year-old NYU students when we met, Caroline arriving late to the first day of class, wearing a designer dress, not knowing who Lorrie Moore was but claiming she could recite the poems of Catullus in Latin. She turned in personal essays about heartbreak and boarding school, had silk eyelashes, and wore cashmere sweaters without a bra.” This description of Calloway feels very familiar. She seems like an aloof, fashionably mismatched, cool girl (posed to go full Gone Girl), who gains the attention of upper-class, gorgeous men, without even trying. Early posts from Calloway’s Instagram would have you expecting the same thing. Online engagement with the Caroline character relies on a personality surrounded in mystique, one you have to chase down and keep clicking on to figure out.
While I was reading about Calloway, delving into all corners of the internet, I couldn’t help but feel like I was chasing down the idea of a person. Every post I read, every picture I examined, I was more and more fascinated with this girl. I identified so much with Natalie Beach, who seemed to be obsessed with keeping Calloway in her life. Beach reminded me of a rom-com protagonist, with Calloway being her manic pixie dream girl. This is a popular film trope, where the beautiful romantic interest is an enigmatic free spirit, purely serving the development of the leading man. Think of Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, or Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown. In my process of investigating (stalking) Calloway, I felt like Twitter and Instagram were offering a new opportunity of interacting with the narrative of a manic pixie dream girl. Beach and Calloway are each given a platform to deconstruct the trope, Beach discussing Calloway’s exploitation of pretty people privilege and reaching below the surface of her upper-class UK adventures, while Calloway posts about her addictions, heartbreaks and portrayal in the media. Audiences are expected to flock to different platforms, which allows them to properly fill in the gaps of this story and understand these characters better. Even though Twitter’s fascination with Calloway isn’t a traditional, fictional story, it might influence the way we interact with stories on social media. If I can recognise a character trope, and find that a compelling enough reason to keep on clicking, then why not engage with multi-platform storytelling for fictional stories?
I mean, something has got to replace this Calloway drama. I can’t face the notifications of my Canvas page yet.