The above picture – before it was deleted off Instagram – came with the following onslaught of brotastic hashtags: “#wallstreet #harvard #stanford #trader #hedgefund #hedgefunds #wealth #wealthy #gq #vogue #givenchy #nyc #nasdaq #nikkei #fortune500 #goldmansachs #bullmarket.”
Wow, right? Did Patrick Bateman transcend fiction? Is Bret Easton Ellis trolling us?
The blatant, high-octave, totally earnest materialism on display in this account made people curious about the user, but the case of the disappearing Instagram profile of user @mrwallstreet83 is filled with lots of braggadocio and few confirmed facts. His flashy account full of photos of a super-luxe lifestyle caught the eye of journalists, but was quickly deleted after scrutiny grew.
So what happened with Mr. Wall Street? Well, the nice thing about social media is you’re in charge, to a degree, of what you put out there. Sure, people can tag you in unflattering kegstand photos, but you get to decide what goes on your profile. You can highlight or downplay life events. Take 20 pictures of your new car but totally avoid talking about the problems you have paying the lease. While some users like to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al, as platforms to vent and complain, most people use them to push a glossier, happier version of their lives. Digital highlight reels, if you will. And Mr. Wall Street put together a highlight reel that was culled more from his dreams than reality, and then got caught in the act.
Mr. Wall Street tried to be a#richkid (but not too convincingly)
You can check out the outrageous good fortune of people you don’t know on Instagram, where most users keep their profiles unlocked, and tags and Tumblrs like #richkidsofinstagram make it easy to see how the 1 percent get down. Profiles showcasing lives of absurd, brand-championing, reckless spending are fascinating because they give people a less-filtered glimpse of how these incredible wealthy people live than what their PR agents put out.
Except … maybe they don’t. One of the most recent standouts from the “baller douchebag” section of Instagram, @Itslavishbitch, is almost certainly fake or at least extremely exaggerated. Or potentially just a straight-up troll. Mr. Wall Street, on the other hand, was confirmed as a sincere account when New York Magazine talked to the main man behind the account, a Canadian real-estate broker named Martin Lavoie. However, that doesn’t mean that Lavoie’s account really reflects his life – he admitted that some of the photos are from friends and clients. And since he started receiving media attention, Lavoie deleted his account, potentially to get rid of the evidence that he was BSing everyone (someone else made an account by the same name and put up six photos, but the original profile is gone).
Plenty of screenshots are still available of his hyper-materialistic account though, and New York Magazine commenters quickly poked holes in the idea that many of these photos came from Lavoie’s life. For instance, one of the penthouse properties he photographs as though he’s hanging out in it is actually a London listing that’s still on the market.
And the photograph of an outlandish $135,000 bill – that Lavoie specifically said was his friends’ bill – was posted online at Deadspin two years ago.
On top of that, Lavoie claims to have attended Harvard and Stanford, but his public professional profile says he went to Concordia University in Montreal and Collège de l’immobilier, a real estate program. Certainly a solid education, but not Ivy League.
So basically, Mr. Wall Street just pulled stuff off the Internet to make his lifestyle look flashier, and then balked when his uber-materialistic profile got attention.
This situation is interesting for several reasons. First, the idea that a successful adult would spend so much time cultivating a profile dedicated to making himself seem outrageously rich is both depressing and not at all surprising. It’s a logical extension of the more subtle self-aggrandizement most people are guilty of on social media. And Mr. Wall Street’s account isn’t exactly unique – there’s a whole culture of taking pictures off the Internet and claiming them as your own, something that the website Instasham celebrates by encouraging users to pretend they have fancier lifestyles than they actually do. But while Instasham is tongue-in-cheek, Lavoie’s travails stem from what looks like a serious attempt to impersonate the super-rich.
Second, the fact that this kind of account is getting so much attention is equally telling (and yes, I realize that I’m contributing to the problem by writing this, but at least I’m self-aware). People love to hate on rich jerks, but they love to hate on deluded braggarts even more.
Many rich people have Instagram accounts, but the ones who gain notoriety for the exploits are the ones who seem to totally lack self-awareness, and who appear to prioritize appearing incredibly wealthy over everything else. The fact that Mr. Wall Street is the second high-profile Instagram user to fake this kind of lifestyle to gain attention underlines how social media can fuel our desire to shape our lives into aspirational narratives, and how we will distort our realities to give our digital selves the sheen of wealth and happiness. And the way that Mr. Wall Street’s folly was so quickly called out underlines how we balk at perceived inauthenticity online just as much as we crave snapshots of opulence.