To open the new social network Rich Kids is to induce a bout of FOMO from which you’ll never wake. The paid Instagram knock-off is an orgy of excess: Dog massages. Lamborghinis. Stacks of gold coins. Private planes.
For the low, low price of €1,000 per month, Rich Kids promises the one-percent of the one-percent an exclusive, virtual club designed just for them — a place where anyone can view pictures, but only the uber-rich can publish them. Since launching in late September, the Slovakian app has recruited a dozen members, including a Russian heiress, a rare coin dealer, and the scions of several prominent real estate families.
It’s also attracted a great deal of condemnation — even from the Apple App Store, which pulled Rich Kids last week. On Product Hunt, a sort of proving ground for new tech concepts and companies, critics panned the app as “awful,” “stupid,” “fantastically ridiculous,” “everything that is wrong with the world” and “disgusting.”
Emir Bahadir is one of the first members of Rich Kids, and he doesn’t see what’s wrong with the app. The 25-year-old heir to a Turkish real estate fortune, Bahadir basically sees €1,000 the way I see the spare change at the bottom of my bag. He takes my phone call from the front seat of his Bentley, which he’s driving to his brand-new realty firm in Manhattan.
Bahadir has always been active on Instagram — he claims to have joined the site to post travel photos not long after it launched. So he saw no reason not to join a new app called Rich Kids when one of its founders, Juraj Ivan, tentatively reached out. Some of the proceeds would go to charity, Ivan promised, and Rich Kids would do the work of porting Bahadir’s photos from Instagram to their more exclusive app. They had hoped he would join ever since seeing his well-filtered photos on the #RKOI hashtag.
“This is my life,” Bahadir said. “My dog, my plane. I don’t do it for social media.”
But also: “My brand is a luxury brand.”
And: “I don’t post if I’m stressing out or something, because that’s private stuff.”
You wouldn’t know it from his Instagram, for instance, but earlier this year Bahadir’s first realty firm imploded in a pretty epic way. He sued his business partner and friend, Ben Benalloul, for using their company as his quote-unquote “personal piggy bank.”
There are other things you don’t see on Rich Kids: no “haul videos,” no #blessed posts, absolutely no “food porn.” Those sorts of subtle class performances are for the plebs, the ones not yet rich enough to do away with decorum. Social media may have democratized the means of conspicuousness — but the wealthy have, and likely always will, own the best objects of consumption.
They get Bentleys and Rolexes; we get Pinterest boards with names like “Products I Love.”
This was, incidentally, part of CEO Juraj Ivan’s motivation for launching Rich Kids: to separate the boring capitalist antics of the bourgeoisie from the more impressive Instagram posturing of the super-rich. Since 2012, Instagram’s upper crust has used the hashtag #RKOI to flag their extravagant displays of wealth — but over time, it’s gotten far less exclusive.
“The problem with a hashtag,” the 28-year-old quips, “is that anyone can use it.”
Now, amidst the Bahadirs and Rodrigo Alves, you’ve got YOLO girls ‘gramming their last domestic vacation and humblebraggarts posting six-dollar lattes. (Note that we’ve actually developed an entire auxiliary vocab to describe people who post this way.) In the U.S., casinos, theme parks and major-league stadiums regularly rank among our most-Instagrammed places; the author and futurist James Wallman has argued the platform risks turning everything into a commodity.
This goes far wider than Instagram, of course: to Pinterest, which has made a business out of capitalist aspirations; or to Venmo, where users broadcast their spending habits as icons of beer or dancing girls or winky faces. Geolocation apps like Foursquare confer public awards to users who can afford to repeatedly dine or drink out. On Twitter and LinkedIn, users speak frequently of the value of their “personal brands” — and not only users like Bahadir, who has turned his name into its own luxury hashtag.
Over the past two years, in fact, a trickle of studies have begun to probe the apparent link between social media use and the impulse to — bluntly stated — show off our stuff. They’ve found that the more you use Instagram and Facebook and their ilk, the more likely you are “to consume conspicuous products.”
This is part of the reason why Ivan has little patience for critics of Rich Kids and its users: They seem so oblivious to the fact that their critiques also implicate mainstream social media culture.
“They are just people enjoying their lives, just like you do,” he said. “There’s no reason to be full of hate because they have something and you don’t have it.”
Unfortunately for Ivan and the Rich Kids, few people seem to have caught onto this particular line of thought. Rich Kids received several more bad reviews after getting panned on Product Hunt. On Oct. 21, following the bad coverage, Apple abruptly pulled Rich Kids from its multi-billion dollar iOS market.
Unofficially, Ivan says, an Apple rep told him that the app had been deemed “inappropriate.”
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