This Is Instagram Reels In A Nutshell, In All Its Manicured Chaos

This week's newsletter: The main difference between Reels and TikTok (spoiler: it's the influencers), and popular fashion whistle-blowing account @Diet_Prada drew its own major backlash this week.

This is Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about how influencers are battling for your attention. You can sign up here.

Reels is hilarious aspirational Instagram, just set to music

Since Instagram unveiled Reels, I’ve been bracing for impact to see how some of the platform’s top influencers will use it. Based on a recent post from fashion and lifestyle influencer Whitney Becker, it’s exceeding my lowest expectations.

Whitney, who has 278,000 followers on Instagram, shared a Reel last week captioned “Iced Coffee, but make it fashion.” Set to music, it’s a montage of how she makes iced coffee at home. The last step is placing an ice cube in the shape of the Chanel logo on top. All of the items to make this is, of course, also affiliate-linked on LikeToKnowIt.

I love it, and I hate it, and yes, I did like to know it.

This video exemplifies, in my opinion, what distinguishes Reels from TikTok. If TikTok makes everyday chaos seem normal, Reels makes the normalcy of the everyday uniquely chaotic. If we check TikTok to feel seen by people we can relate to, we log onto Instagram to see and gawk at people whose lives seem so surreal. It would be disgusting and wonderful if every day I capped my ice coffee with a designer emblem, but it will never happen. It’s hard to know if Whitney’s video was posted in earnest, or as performance art. I reached out to her to ask.

But the ambiguity is exactly why I prefer TikTok. As much as Chanel-branded coffee is a...sight to see, I guess, I prefer watching people use humor as a coping mechanism, and this person shampooing and conditioning the tassel-y part of corn.

Vox published an article last week asking, “Why does Instagram Reels suck so bad?” Writer Rebecca Jennings’ thesis is that it’s basically congested by verified accounts, aka mostly lifestyle influencers whose content is directly tied to their income. “In short, blue checks have more to lose, so they’re nowhere near as creative or weird,” she writes.

However, if Whitney responds to me saying her content about how she makes her “favorite Chanel inspired coffee!” was high-concept satire, forget Instagram Reels, it belongs in the MoMA.

@Diet_Prada, the account known for blowing the whistle on fashion and lifestyle brands, has taken things too far

Following Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, popular Instagram account @Diet_Prada shared a photoshopped image of the first lady with a Hitler ’stache and Nazi cap.

“Brb going to hell for this lol,” they wrote on Wednesday.

The account first grew popular for calling out designer copycats, absurd trends, and systemic racism and social injustice in the lifestyle and fashion industries. It has a cult following because, in my opinion, a lot of their critique and cheeky commentary is extremely valid. The account has tipped off journalists and they’ve grown a community of proactive and conscious consumers.

That’s over 2.2 million followers.

This past week, however, many @Diet_Prada fans have turned the backlash and criticism on the account holders. Many felt the image of the first lady as Adolf Hitler went too far, saying that taking a provocative cheap shot in response to upsetting politics does not empower the account’s criticism.

“Why sink to this level? How disappointing,” one commenter wrote. “This is too far,” another added. “Love you diet prada but no :///”

I reached out to the account owners for comment.

I’ve followed @Diet_Prada over the years, and have cited them in my reporting. But I agree with the commenters. The messaging on the Melania meme is inflammatory and confusing — and Melania’s speech was already ripe with inflammatory and confusing language. Posts like this don’t engage and mobilize people — like the account has so successfully done in the past — they fragment a movement, and turn people away. I want to believe @Diet_Prada knows better than that.

And forgive me for overusing her mantra, but from one first lady to another: “When they go low, we go high.”

Until next time,

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