Some New Fiction about Influencers and Social Media

The Fiction Addiction

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Just a few of my favorite novels where influencing, living life in public, and Instagram clues play a major role in the storyline.

In Jennifer Weiner's Big Summer, when an awkward moment goes viral, Daphne turns her accidental fame into a side hustle as a popular plus-size Instagram influencer. This part is prime Jennifer Weiner fiction, about a chubby girl turning her setbacks into success. Daphne's always-online influencing isn't the entire plot of the story (there's also a complicated friendship to unravel and a murder to solve!) but it moves the story along.

Although the gorgeous clothes and other freebies felt tempting, in this book, Daphne's influencing feels like a real side job, with gotta post a yoga mat selfie for the client replacing gotta proofread that new document for the client or gotta make those edits to that logo for the client for many of us with side hustles. This feels like a fun modern take on Weiner's previous unapologetically plus-size characters, and I absolutely wanted Daphne to be a wild success.

In Treasure, a free Kindle short story from Oyinkan Braithwaite, the main character is an aspiring Instagram influencer in Lagos. Treasure is on her way to blue-check, swipe-up, paid campaign influencer status, and she'll do with with single-minded ambition and carefully posed lifestyle shots that obscure her actual job and real life. This wonderful short, by the author of My Sister, The Serial Killer, is a darkly compelling look at the space between have and have-not, filters and reality.

Although it's not nearly as dark, Happy and You Know It, by Laura Hankin, highlights the same gap between those Insta-perfect photos and real life. This one focuses on motherhood and the mommy influencer business. Happy and You Know It is a fun story of upscale, stylish, competitive mommyhood, as well as a sharp look at the wellness/self-care industry. There's a surprising storyline about class, motherhood, and the ever-present wellness industry for women, with an ending I didn't expect at all. (For another send-up of modern wellness culture, don't miss At Least You Have Your Health)

I recently wrote about finding the Insta-influencer life kind of flat in Influence. It works well in Happy And You Know It, with the focus on constantly performing joyous motherhood, a certain brand of conscious self-care, and publicly living the #blessed life. Even if that's not quite for me, I could see what was aspirational about Whitney’s adorable baby and mommy sisterhood, and I could see her thought process in posing and selecting photos to present that life. I found Influence a bit underwhelming because I simply didn't desire any part of the influencers' lives. Same thing with Like Me, another story about Instagram and a curated, public, aspirational identity, since I didn't particularly want that life, I found it so much harder to understand the character's motivations.

And no list of literature insta-stars would be complete without Colette Bing in China Rich Girlfriend, by Kevin Kwan. (This is the second book, after the now-famous Crazy Rich Asians and before Rich People Problems.) Colette's Instagram fashion empire is just one of the wildly over-the-top aspects of the story, as she apologizes to her dinner guests and directs her assistant to snap and share a photo, because her social media fans simply must have something new every hour. The main plot is more about discovering Rachel's true background, with a little poisoning and a lot of backstabbing in this novel too.

What else have you read with Instagram and social media influencing in the story?

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