If you don’t loathe the Rich Kids of Instagram, it’s probably because you haven’t seen the Tumblr yet.
It consists entirely of pictures taken by the People In Private Jets Who Drink Bottles of Champagne So Giant You Thought They Had To Be A Myth and the People Who Grew Up In Actual Bona Fide Castles With Tritons In The Fountains and the People With Gold-Plated AK47s Who — I’m sorry, I’m foaming at the mouth just typing this.
And the Internet agrees.
The Internet hates such ostentatious displays of wealth. We love ostentatious displays, in general. Show us your quirky wedding! Display your cats as ostentatiously as you darn well please. Dress up your childhood and wheel it out at length. We don’t mind.
Display your food as ostentatiously as you like. We will complain a little that you took seventy-six pictures of farm-grown peas on a goat’s milk cushion that you made yourself, with different filters and from different angles, but we will let it slide.
Display your relationships and your thoughts and your semi-witty observations and we will smile and Like and chuckle and bear with you.
But wealth is another matter.
The Internet is what the revolution was supposed to look like. It has all the hallmarks of Les Miserables except the singing. There’s even the occasional barricade.
In fact, the only reason I hear about today’s Ostentatiously Wealthy is because Internet mobs come shouting down my street at dawn, pushing them in a tumbril. (I’m sorry, “tumblr.”)
The streets of the Internet have always belonged to the 99 percent. It is no respecter of purses. Here, you live by your wits. Seldom has that been so obvious as with the recent bout of ritualized loathing for the Ultrarich, on Instagram or not. Consider the case of the Brothers Brant, two not-more-than- usually vapid but far-more-than-usually well-publicized teens. They are rich! They are on Twitter! They are trying to establish themselves as — wits, or fashion-plates, or something.
You can tell the difference between Internet culture and Regular Culture because Regular Culture is still trying to shove the Brants at us to see whether we might find them interesting. The New York Times profiled them. So did Vanity Fair. And the Internet would not dream of such a thing.
So kicking them in print has become something of a national sport online. It’s a new genre of rant — the Brant rant, or brant. Gawker is all over it. So is Cracked.com. Later they’ll go to playoffs to see who can more compellingly argue that these teenagers are too vapid for their fame, using a greater profusion of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.
In the ravaged revolutionary city, where art is torn from walls, shredded, and remixed to suit our collective tastes, and the only word that matters is word of mouth, it is hard to be a scion of the old order. The best you can do is sequester yourself in some protected corner of the Internet where no mockery is permitted. Say, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop, which offers the kind of airplane travel tips that no one south of the First-Class curtain could hope to employ. ( Spritz the air with silver before you sit down! It baffles germs! Moisturize yourself expensively!)
Wealth counts for little online. If you have it, you ought to be a little rueful about it, unless you earned it honestly, through reality television or music or some kind of sweepstakes. Even then we may turn on you. The tribunal never adjourns.
Our love of the Shiny Things We Have Discovered For Ourselves is only matched by our distaste for Unearned Success. If you are really trying to destroy someone online, don’t say she’s ugly or dull. Charge her with nepotism. Nepotism! Plagiarism! Elitism! These are the isms the Internet cannot stand. In the ravaged streets of the revolution, where the only thing that counts is what you post for yourself, a stolen joke is as dire as the theft of a loaf of bread.
Here, there are no kings. Interesting is king. Anyone can be interesting. You too can make a meme, and one day, thousands of Twitter followers can be yours.
That’s why the Brants bother us so much. They already have their money. Why must they also demand our attention? And why are they spending those superfluous dollars on an accessory panther? We wouldn’t rent a panther. We are far more interesting! Why do they get the New York Times profile?
That is the point of most of these essays, these tumblrs. “How dull these people are,” they say. “How unoriginal. How derivative. If only they knew that what matters is what we have, not what they have. Right, Internet?”
Of course the trouble with speaking interestingly about uninteresting people is that people generally remember the name in the headline and forget the name in the byline. Every time you publish your authoritative beheading of the hydra, two heads grow back in place of one.