I’ll be the first person to admit to myself and to others for that matter, that I’m addicted to my phone. Social media in particular. The ability to connect with my friends, family, and the many celebrities whose lives I somehow voluntarily get sucked into are accessible right at my fingertips.
Is it healthy to cyber stalk an actor whose name wasn’t printed in the program at the theater and somehow miraculously find their Instagram? I could say I’m speaking from experience, but I don’t know if everyone would appreciate my personal investigation skills.
I’d like to think that wasn’t as far as Ingrid takes her obsession in Ingrid Goes West, but that’s definitely pushing it. What are the consequences of living such a connected lifestyle? What happens when you misread the manufactured filtered lives of another person?
To answer those questions, you get the comedy drama starring Aubrey Plaza, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Elizabeth Olsen. We should be able to admit by now that as a society, we’re obsessed with wanting to know what’s going on at that exact moment. Somewhere in the world, your favorite internet celebrity has just posted a picture, what do you do?
Ingrid, an unhinged social media stalker (IMDB), played by Aubrey Plaza has become obsessed with an Instagram celebrity and decides to become best friends with her so she moves to Los Angeles. While this film is a satire, you are uneasily reminded of how social media can connect you with someone when you have a right here, right now mentality.
Ingrid is always glued to her phone, checking to see if Taylor Sloane, played by Elizabeth Olsen, has posted anything. She goes beyond just checking her new photos to taking Taylor replying to one of her comments as an invitation to be her new best friend.
The television screen is lit up in a soft orange glow, a filter throughout the film that pulls the audience into Ingrid’s absurd and inverted social media reality. The sounds of clicks and enlarged hearts take up the screen whenever Ingrid likes a photo. She finds out where Taylor lives – Venice Beach, obv. Ingrid finds a place to live nearby and rents a small guest house from Dan Pinto played by O’Shea Jackson Jr. Without knowing what he’s getting into, Dan lets Ingrid borrow his car after Ingrid steals Taylor’s dog and reunites the two so she can be brought in even further in her plan.
Taylor and her boyfriend invite Ingrid over for dinner to pay her back for their dog’s safe return. As they hang out more, Taylor asks Ingrid on a weekend getaway to Joshua Tree. This whole time, Taylor doesn’t know Ingrid has been stalking her on social media. As Ingrid is brought in further and further into Taylor’s world, she begins to realize just how far from reality Taylor’s Instagram persona actually is.
When Taylor’s brother comes to town, he turns everything upside down. Taylor wants to hang out with him instead of Ingrid. Suddenly, she’s not having a say in when she can hang out with Taylor and when she can’t. Taylor’s focus is completely taken away by her brother. The lies that Ingrid kept building on keep getting bigger and bigger. Taylor invites Ingrid to a house party and Ingrid finally feels like she can prove herself and win back Taylor’s attention.
Ingrid brings Dan, who she says is her boyfriend, to the party. This is her first step in trying to show her new friends that she should be accepted into their group and that Dan isn’t just some guy she made up. But Dan’s obsessed with Batman and Ingrid doesn’t want him to talk about it. He goes along with Ingrid’s crazy requests even though he doesn’t think he needs to change for anyone to like him. Ingrid tries too hard to get back into Taylor’s life at the party and it gets on the verge of sad and obsessive. Taylor’s brother steals Ingrid’s phone and finds photos she took of contents in Taylor’s bathroom drawers and pictures that Ingrid took of her and Taylor when Taylor was sleeping.
Taylor’s brother tells Taylor and her boyfriend and Ingrid is immediately shut out of their lives. When Ingrid remembers Taylor wanted to buy the house that was next to her house in Joshua Tree and turn it into a boutique hotel, Ingrid buys it. After way too many phone calls to Taylor asking her why she isn’t texting or calling her back and a confrontation at a party that Ingrid was not invited to, Ingrid doesn’t know where to turn.
Everything she knew is gone. She takes a video of her swallowing a bottle’s worth of pills and posts it to Instagram. She wakes up in the hospital to the one person who had been on her side the entire time even if she didn’t appreciate it. The one person who doesn’t seem to be turned off by her actions. Dan had called an ambulance after seeing her video. He asks her why she felt the need to move to Joshua Tree when he had been there all along. And after posting her video, Ingrid has become trending online because it showed how even supposed best friends of Instagram celebrities don’t always live perfect lives.
Taylor moved to Venice Beach because she thought it would make her life better. She thought living there would make her more appealing to her followers. She used Instagram posts of her boyfriend’s favorite book to make people think she read a book that improved her life and posted stylized pictures of vegan food from a trendy restaurant. She asked her boyfriend to quit his job and become an artist so they’d fit into the LA lifestyle. Dan wants to write screenplays and he looks up to Batman, something Ingrid wants him to cover up because she thinks it won’t be appealing to her new “friends.” Ingrid wants to run from her past and become best friends with someone who she thinks will make her life better. But it’s all a filter, it’s not all as it seems.
While this movie is highly satirical, it shows how empty and unfulfilling social media can be. Something that was made to connect us is also one of the highest causes of anxiety amongst young adults. The constant accessibility of knowing what everyone else is doing can cause us to feel insecure about ourselves and make us feel like we’re not living up to some social standard.
When our lives don’t match those of our friends’ or the staged photos of a celebrity, we feel as though we aren’t good enough. But we can also make our own false reality available to others when we only post the photos of our extravagant vacation or the one photo where we look happy.
I’ve experienced the anxiety that goes along with social media and have finally unfollowed people and also deleted my Facebook entirely. When the one thing that was supposed to keep us in touch with people is the thing causing most of our anxiety, we have to rethink why we have it and what good it’s actually bringing us.
Limiting the people I follow and taking much needed breaks from social media has helped me realize how addicted I am. I believe there is an actual reality where we don’t post everything from our lives. There is a life that exists that you don’t have to scroll through or Tweet about.