She existed only on Instagram. Mostly she was a face and a body, but in her videos she had a voice. She had taste in fashion, appreciation for nature, and a love of bright fruits arranged in artful patterns. As to whether or not she had a mind, a soul, something of substance or character, well that could only be guessed at by snippets of words that accompanied images of her face and body. Which hardly differentiated her from anyone in real life. No one explicitly shows their mind or soul, exposes their heart or has the power to physically manifest their character—they just have the benefit of a third dimension to play with, while her expression was limited to two. Yet within these two dimensions she thrived, filling them with the power of her existence, overwhelming them with her beauty so that it very nearly spilled out of the frame of the photos.
She was a celebrity because millions of people knew her. They knew her intimately, more than any real-life celebrity could be known, because they knew everything about her. Her entire existence was confined to Instagram and so her followers—the most avid of them at least—could see everything she did and everything she was. In fact, anyone could know everything about her if they so wished; her life was public and open to observation. She welcomed the public eye because it was the incentive for her existence. Unlike the poor souls relegated to a corporeal existence who struggled to find purpose, hers was inherently tied to her being. She existed to be seen and would only exist so long as she continued to be seen. Seeking attention was her raison d’être and her measure of value. Her life was simple, beautifully simple, which made her all the more appealing to the masses of followers who sustained her. It was not a twisted symbiosis but a pure cycle: she existed to please her fans, and her fans loved her for being nothing more than exactly what they desired.
The simplicity of her existence was nearly perfect, save for one small flaw: her existence was a wall, covering up something. This was only discoverable because there was a tiny hole in the wall, barely noticeable. No light spilled out of that hole because there lurked behind it a dark shadow. Whatever was behind the wall was something mysterious, covert and dangerous. It was unappealing to nearly everyone that looked at her—the adoring followers that allowed her to exist and reveled in her beautiful simplicity—who had to accept a level of ignorance to even believe in her in the first place. It was so unappealing that they never noticed it. Certainly they would not look for the holes in her being that could be the harbinger of cracks that would spread over the beautiful façade she had created for herself, thereby admitting that she was in fact nothing more than a façade. When the truth became too obvious to ignore, then people would demand to see behind the wall and would come face to face with the small dark shadow.
It is impossible to say for certain what form his shadow would take. A person, surely; a real person of flesh and blood that could appear before cameras and operate phones. Very possibly it would be a person that was almost exactly like the woman that existed on Instagram: beautiful, fun, fashionable, desirable. Less likely, but still possible, her mannerisms would be those characteristic of her poses and the way she spoke would be exactly as she did in her videos. She would be instantly recognizable and her adoring fans would swoon at the sight of her, in three dimensions, having sprung out of the phone screen and into real life, even more beautiful now that her form was tangible. But…she would not be the same woman. She could not be the same woman. Someone who exists on Instagram could not possibly also exist in human form. And she did exist on Instagram; therefore the woman that walked the streets, and took the pictures, and lived much like many other people could not possibly be her. Either she was a figment of a distorted reality—and did not exist at all—or she was someone else entirely: the woman behind the curtain, the duplicitous operator of some imposter engine.
The dark shadow was not this beautiful, real woman, but the woman’s uncertainties and imperfections that covered her. What made the Instagram model beautiful was her simplicity; she could be known, entirely. She had no secrets. She was not perfect but her flaws were obvious and open to scrutiny: there was nothing more to her than what met the eyes. This was comfortably reassuring. The woman, on the other hand, was shrouded in shadow. She could be known, but only as much as any complex, imperfect human could be known, and any illusion of intimacy with her was only ever assumed. Her true motives could not be known, nor could her mind, or her spirit, or her sanity. She was horribly, tragically human.
So the model lives on, on Instagram. But how long can the charade continue? For as separate as she is from the real life woman that existed behind the photos, the truth is that they are at some level inexorably linked. As the real life woman changes and ages, so too will the Instagram model. At a certain point no amount of computer editing will allow her skin to glow or her curves to hold. If she is well made, though, and her fans love her enough, she will be able to adapt to new stages of her life just as real women are able to do. She can take on new identities and develop new interests, sustained by her static purpose of serving her fans. This will make her seem even more lifelike and her followers will be able to love her even more. Perhaps the charade will never end: she will live on Instagram as long as the woman lives in life. Perhaps even longer. A life on Instagram is not limited by the usual constraints of human existence. Her life, comprised of photos and videos, is fulfilling and complete. It may go on forever. Yet she is not human, and never can be. She exists only on Instagram.