I DO love a selfie. I take about 50 to get the ideal Instagram shot and visit places I see on other people’s feeds if I think I can get good snaps there.
One Halloween I even got dressed up in my killer outfit just so I could post a pic on Instagram . . . then stayed home.
But even for me, the idea of paying £9.99 for an hour — £19.99 for a day — in a factory of fake sets purely to create photos for the ’gram seems extreme.
Is this harmless fun? Or an all-time narcissistic low?
The pop-up, in Westfield shopping centre, West London, is a hub of photo opportunities, with everything from giant elephants to huge teddies in a sensory overload of sets.
The website advises you to “switch your outfits up and sprinkle the uploads on the ’gram for months to come”.
What better way to make your followers think you’re super interesting and fun, huh?
I cart my case of outfits to the changing rooms, stick on a frilly number and head to my first set, a faux-American diner. I feel like an extra in Grease, but with no fun dance numbers.
Pretending to sip a plastic milkshake through a straw gnawed to bits by others — lovely — while contorting my body into “flattering” poses feels awkward.
Insecurities buzz as my mind screams, “What am I doing? This isn’t real life!”
Later I watch and learn as visitors flop into a bath of pink balls.
I pose for shots in it, but while heaving myself out in my skimpy dress, I lose my grip and crash back into the bath.
An avalanche of balls tumbles out and a staff member helps me as I scramble to pick them up.
Bright red, I run for cover in the big kids’ ball pit. But as I dive in, I realise it’s only deep enough for a paddle, covering half my calf.
Shallowness really is a theme of this factory.
All around me I hear directions – “Suck your tummy in” and “Do a fake laugh”. I see kids as young as ten who have begged their mums to visit as if it’s Alton Towers.
It dawns on me my generation are so busy fretting about the 23,700 selfies we will take in our lifetimes that we are stopping ourselves enjoying life.
Instagram model Lucy Barrett, 21, from Milton Keynes, Bucks, who is also visiting, tells me: “Today was stressful as we only had an hour slot for six outfits, but it was the perfect place to change up my feed and build followers and my social presence.”
Eight outfits, five hours and some 1,500 pictures later, I drag myself home and post the shots.
I had a brief boost from the flood of compliments, but was it worth the hassle? Definitely not. I was bored and felt like a zoo animal.
Selfie Factory MD Will Bower says taking photos purely for Instagram is the norm and the pop-up is “good harmless fun” with backdrops so abstract “everyone knows it’s pretend”.
The ethos of the factory is to create “happiness, positivity and self-love”, but in my view that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead, it’s encouraging people to think your online persona is important.
This week’s documentary on Little Mix singer Jesy Nelson showed how damaging that can be.
– The Selfie Factory is at Bluewater shopping centre, Kent, from November to Christmas. See selfiefactory.co.uk.
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