Where the hell was Nev and Max when I needed them?
It was a muggy summer afternoon, and my good friend Lindsey had dragged me to the Lilly Pulitzer store at our local mall (if you can’t already tell by my verb choice, Lilly isn’t exactly my cup of tea). It was almost clockwork that after browsing a few dresses and shirts, she bolted to the agendas.
“Do you like this one?” she held up a blue and pink one that resembled a field of undersea coral.
“Or THIS one?” She put a second book in my face. It, too, was a mish mash of yellow and pink swirls with some pops of green.
I stared at both and put my hand to my chin, mimicking Rodin’s “The Thinker.”
“They both look the same….” I laughed.
Needless to say, Lindsey wasn’t impressed, and proceeded to the cash register ignoring my joke. I pulled out my phone to avoid conversation with the bubbly Lilly worker, (sorry not sorry) and unlocked it to a new notification. One new like on an Instagram. That’s cool. But wait…. the username read “@alanna.martine.” That’s odd. I mean, sure I’ve met a few Alana’s and Alanna’s before, but someone to actually have the same first and middle name as me? Not to mention, my username on Instagram is “@alanna_martine,” so this one sounded awfully similar.
I tried to open the notification but my service had been swallowed by the Watermelon patterned shorts around me.
“I’m heading outside for a second.” I grasped my black bag closer to me and swiftly moved out of the store.
Once outside, I quickly refreshed my phone, and before I knew it: my heart dropped. I had recognized the little photo next to the copycat username….. it was me. Specifically, it was a cropped version of an Instagram I had posted a little more than a year ago- a screenshot from my May 2014 Lookbook I had made when I was traveling in Italy. There I was, my dark brown hair, in my white H&M shirt and crazy hot pink reflective sunnies I got at Necessary Clothing right before the trip. Behind me in the photo, was a graffitied wall of one of my favorite places on earth: the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
This has got to be a joke of some kind. My face grew hot and I hesitated. Maybe it’s a mistake? I clicked on the profile.
There I was again, in some 20 odd photos taken from my personal Instagram account, posted all over this person’s profile. My photos from Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York, my photos from Soho trips with Lindsey, photos in my signature winter beanies, and even a photo from one of my most recent blog posts that I posted at the end of June 2015. On top of that, the account’s description read, “Alanna.” “Fashion enthusiast” “reader” and “namaste,” all words directly ripped off my blog, as well as my personal Instagram account. What’s worse, the account had posted it’s first copycat photo 12 weeks ago, which was roughly 3-ish months ago. Only one thought ran through my head: this account had been posing as me for all this time?
[Every photo here belongs to me except the one of Zendaya]
I scrolled down the page and there were even more photos taken from my account that I had posted years ago. But what freaked me out even more, were that there were reposted photos of me and my friends with the same exact captions. Photos of my roommates and I before nights out in the city, selfies with my girlfriends that I’d posted from various shopping trips, all with captions that were either copied directly or paraphrased from the posts I had made on Instagram.
[Right, my personal Instagram, @alanna_martine, photo from 70 weeks ago // Left, same photo on the fake account posted 10 weeks ago]
If you had visited that account without any idea who I was, by the looks of the description of the profile and most of the photo captions, you’d think @alanna.martine was actually me.
Before it sounds like I’m huffing and puffing, I do understand that I’m a blogger, and yes, I know that anything I post becomes public information that is likely to be stolen, but I have to admit, I was completely and utterly shocked. Never in a million years did it occur me to that someone would take the time to scroll through my 1,420 Instagram photos (yeah, I insta a lot,) screenshot some of them, crop them, and repost them with similar captions. I wasn’t sure whether to be weirdly flattered or extremely freaked out.
I’ve seen thousands of “imposter” Instagrams for every Kardashian or Jenner under the sun. I’m even pretty familiar with the fact that bloggers and Youtubers sometimes fall ill to this. In fact, it’s sometimes even hard to find a celebrity or blogger’s real account unless they’re verified (fake accounts are mainly the point of verification, for that matter). But me? My blog hadn’t even reached it’s third birthday! And while I found it humorous, I also felt a bit violated. Especially when photos of my friends were involved– these were friends who don’t display their lives as publicly as I do, they aren’t bloggers, or Youtubers, or in social media light the same way I am. This is what made me even more uncomfortable, I felt as if I was putting them at risk.
Lindsey exited the store with a Lilly bag in hand.
”What’s going on?”
“You’re never going to believe this,” I handed her my phone.
Her eyes widened as if she was reading a text sent from “-A,” and she scrolled through the Instagram. Was this for real?
“We have to say something!!!! Right?!” she asked.
I completely had no idea how to respond. But I guess we did have to say something.
Long story short, we commented on this catfish’s photos asking to deactivate the account, and I filed a claim for an imposter via Instagram (yes, they literally have that as an option when you report an account). Shortly after, we received a DM from the girl (or guy?) behind the account, apologizing and claiming it was simply a fan account, which I complied with. I was fine with having a fan account, but copying my captions and description didn’t feel very “fan”-like to me, on top of the fact that I hadn’t even been tagged in any of the photos, which is a common practice when it comes to “Instagram fandom” (is that what it’s called?). After a few DM’s back and forth, the mystery person behind the account told us she/he would deactivate it, and it was, then and there, deactivated and remains deactivated to this day.
Through all of this, I was not really troubled by the fact that she/he had reposted photos from my blog. Photos from my personal life? That was where it got a little murky (although, I am slightly to blame, as my
Instagram is public, so I’ll take responsibility for that one).
What troubled me was the profile itself. The fact that if someone had found that fake account, they would have assumed the person behind it was the face in the photos, namely, me. This is a very scary thing about social media: it can be as deceiving as you want it to be. These outlets allow us to hide ourselves, make our lives seem better than they are, or even in this case, pretend to be someone we’re not.
Legality is massive issue when it comes to social media. In any other time and space, a person acting as an imposter, or “catfish,” would be prosecuted in real life. Unfortunately, these platforms give us the ability to dodge this bullet. If you’re caught, you just delete your profile. Instead of facing either punishment or self-reflection, we now have the option to deflect, avoid, and delete. To make it seem as if it never happened. In effect, social media is breeding an attitude of “it’s okay to not take responsibility,” and that’s a very scary thing. Real life doesn’t give us a delete button option.
I was troubled by the person behind the profile. To whoever you are: you are brilliant, and beautiful, and you don’t have to post pictures of me or someone else to believe those things about yourself. Maybe you didn’t intend to pose as me, but even so, I don’t need a fan page to “substantiate” my success. If you want to admire and learn about me, engage with me on these platforms with your own profile, because that’s what social media is intended for. I want to get to know each and every beautiful reader that admires the Lala, my blog, or any other social outlet of mine, but I only want to get to know you for who YOU ARE!
I know that other individuals have experienced this kind of situation with much higher stakes, I mean, have you seen MTV’s Catfish (MAX THOUGH<3)? So I am thankful that I wasn’t victim to anything worse, but it was an eye-opening experience to have, and shows that the Internet is often abused in ways it shouldn’t be. Social media may come across as frivolous and fun, (mostly because it is frivolous and fun) but sometimes we need to be reminded that there are real people behind the screen, and it’s important to respect them as you would under any other circumstance.
To @alanna.martine, whoever you are, thank you. Thank you for inspiring me to write this article. Thank you for allowing me to remind all the catfishes in the world that they don’t need to make a fake profile to feel good about themselves. Be proud of who you are and where you come from, because your story is so unique to you, and that’s irreplaceable. This one’s for you, @alanna.martine.
Now excuse me while I do anything but shop at Lilly Pulitzer 😉
For more inspiration, check out Killer Queen!