Girls on Fyre

The Fyre Festival was history’s biggest clip joint scam.

Clip joints are bars that sell bad drinks at a huge markup. An attractive, flirty woman lures in the customer–or, more accurately, the mark and encourages them to buy round after round. When the check comes, the woman slips away, leaving the mark with a hefty bill and usually one or two imposing staff members makes sure it’s paid.

The Fyre Festival was obviously a tropical beach instead of a bar. But the principle was the same. The marks were young, rich music lovers; the flirty women were Instagram models.

Entrepreneur Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule proposed the Fyre Festival as a gathering meant to dwarf Coachella in both scale and grandeur. But thanks to gross mismanagement and missed deadlines, the festival quickly fell apart. Blink-182, one of the headliners, dropped out 24 hours before they were slated to take the stage. Other acts didn’t show up. The food was simple bread, cheese and salad (with dressing!) and the amenities were minimal. The guests, many of whom paid top dollar for VIP access, were presented with tiny tents and no running water. Leaving wasn’t an option, and in some cases security locked the attendees in holding rooms.

It was a far cry from the luxury experience promised by Instagram pics.

Fyre Media promoted the festival on Instagram with pictures of beautiful Caribbean locales, late night parties and beautiful women. To announce the festival, Fyre media paid over 400 “influencers,” including many models, to post an orange box on their social media accounts, representing the titular“fyre.” They didn’t offer much concrete information about the actual festival, but when you have a bikini-clad model heading there, those details are easy to overlook.

Instagram mixes posts from people you know with posts of people that you don’t, which affects on how you perceive information from Instagram. It makes it difficult to categorize the information and make informed decisions. Internet famous “Influencers” have a wide reach on the platform, and advertisers pay them to pose with their products.

Social media platforms like Instagram often paint an unrealistically rosy picture of reality.You don’t get the truth. You get a highlight reel. The promises of sunny beaches and hordes of Kendall Jenner lookalikes need to be understood in this context. It’s easy to be caught up in the world of supermodels and tropical paradises, but when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

In the end, the whole Fyre Festival disaster is a lesson on what happens when you ignore substance in favor of style, something Instagram is set up to do.

And in the end, Fyre Media offered refunds for the failure.

But hey, there’s always next year.