Since the story about the ill-fated Fyre Festival broke in 2017 I’ve devoured almost any piece of information I could find in order to learn as much as I could about the mess that happened on Great Exuma, The Bahamas. So I was as excited as a pig in mud to learn that not only one but two documentaries had been made about the event that set many tongues wagging about how hundreds of “rich” millennials got duped into spending their coins on disaster relief tents, dry cheese sandwiches and way way less than VIP service.
Well, forgive my Caribbean mind because when I read about the disaster as it unfolded thanks to various aspects of social media, even though I wasn’t aware of the existence of the festival in the first place, I thought, how on earth could this have gotten this far? Who was Billy McFarland? Ja Rule? Which rock did they have to overturn to find him and didn’t 50 Cent effectively ruin his career?
Anyway, fast-forward to January 2019 and my gleeful disbelief in watching both the Hulu and Netflix documentaries, entitled “Fyre Fraud” and “Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened”, respectively. Ding Ding Ding! The culprit? Our slavish adherence to what we see on social media and one of its biggest culprits, Instagram.
Disclaimer: I love Instagram. It’s the only form of social media I actively use, except for WhatsApp, as I have yet to come back around to frequent use of Facebook. I understand the appeal of mindlessly scrolling through photos of people you either know or don’t know, seeing and maybe liking the images of their lives they want the world to see. I GET the excitement we feel when finally we see photos of that event or news story that everyone is talking about. For us carnival stans, that moment when the costumes from the band you love are finally posted (with prices!). Or the new clothing, jewellery or makeup collection from your favourite designer (Heyyyy Fenty Beauty!).
Then there’s the more intense side of Instagram, which is the advertising behemoth that it’s become. It’s the perfect place to show literally the world, as in anyone with a smart phone, your product or your service. For literally a few dollars and if you’re reeeeaaaalllyyy popular, for free you can create enough FOMO to have people practically salivating to attend your event. We see this every year for major seasonal events such as Soca Brainwash at Trinidad Carnival and Puff of Colour at Crop Over in Barbados. We know that once you see that flyer posted stating the time that tickets go.on.sale that you need to be on your device, credit card or PayPal information in hand, tickets already in the cart, finger hovering over the “purchase” button. We saw it in November 2018 for Cardi B’s first sale of her line with Fashion Nova, when clothing sold out in mere hours and while not always advertising a product, the millions of likes that one Kardashian post can garner in a few hours.
So while many of us, myself included, watched in disbelief that a whole set of men and women in their 20s and 30s decided to pay up to thousands of dollars to fly to a festival in a Caribbean island, mostly based on the fact that big-named social media influencers promoted it on social media and not much else, you realise how much many of us rely on something other than our God-given instincts to make decisions. Both documentaries interview people who admitted that even though their questions weren’t being answered by organisers (the questions were being deliberately deleted) they still decided to take the chance and go. I suppose it could have been the fact that money had already been spent and continued to be spent and of course, the absolute need to have an experience like Kendall Jenner or Bella Hadid, according to the glossy video.
All I’m saying is, let this extreme case be a lesson to all of us about not allowing social media sense to take over common sense. If you have a horrible time at an event two years in a row, why torture yourself in year three? Is it because the photographer was able to capture a few amazing shots or somebody’s Instastory or Live happened to be by the one section that was “action” for a brief moment? Would you choose a carnival concierge based solely on a few promises on a post or would you do more research? How much faith do you really put in social media?
Truth be told, I might be saying this from the perspective of someone who lives in a place that looks very similar to where the Fyre Festival was supposed to be held and have enough cynicism in my heart to make “better decisions”. Or maybe because I’m one of those millennials privileged to have experienced both floppy disks and flash drives, VHS and Amazon Fire Stick and long cord landlines and FaceTime so I know how to communicate and obtain information from various sources?
Who knows? This could very easily have been documentaries on how hundreds of West Indians clamoured to some snow covered mountain resort to experience “Feting in de Snow” (I kid, lol) and ended up freezing our asses off, cussing and praying to get back to the warmth, all based on glossy Instagram posts featuring/posted by our favourite soca artistes and Caribbean and International “influencers”.
But we aren’t that gullible….or are we?