RKOI. It’s a simple four letter hashtag that has spawned almost a thousand spin-offs. Initially started as a Tumblr blog back in 2013, the Rich Kids of Instagram brand has grown exponentially and taken on a life of its own.
The Instagram account associated with the official site boasts a considerable 284 thousand followers for a relatively meagre 340 posts. That’s an impressive ratio, particularly given that the account remains largely faceless and nameless. Instead, it allows the svelte and sun kissed faces that grace its presence to take centre stage. Tellingly enough, the account doesn't follow anyone.
Anyone can submit a photo to the site, but there is a definite hierarchy of players in the RKOI scene. Chryseis Tan is the 27-year-old daughter of a Malaysian billionaire with over 67 thousand followers of her own, and a regular feature on RKOI. With a tagline stating “#youcantdothis,” it’s safe to say humility is not the name of her game. Morgan Stewart, daughter of a hot-shot Beverly Hills architect, is another major player boasting over 900 thousand followers with a blog titled ‘Boobs and Loubs’ and, more recently, a reality TV stardom thanks to the ‘Rich Kids of Beverly Hills’ spin off. Andrew Warren is another regular. Grandson of a fashion tycoon and son of a successful New York real estate investor, Warren travels the world documenting his endeavours and seemingly never-ending array of gorgeous girlfriends. All for his 61 thousand followers.
So why are we, mere mortals, so damn fascinated by the luxurious lives of the “Insta-Famous?” What is it about these wealthy kids that makes them so irresistibly intriguing?
One could argue that the RKOI phenomenon is simply a modern interpretation of classic aristocracy. Mindless consumption of luxurious products and high-end experiences touted as taste. Exclusivity and access heralded as self-worth. These are value systems we seem destined to re-create. Even the language used across the entire RKOI ecosystem appears to consciously cultivate the traditional class distinctions of the aristocratic era. One particular post to the spin off “richkidsoflondon” shed shade on the “peasants lining up for Primark.” This statement is remarkably close to Marie Antoinette’s infamous “let them eat cake.”
Interestingly however, whilst on the surface the RKOI brand appears to represent the lives of the Insta-Elite, the reality is that the hashtag itself has been used over 17 thousand times since Instagram launched in 2010. A small percentage of these posts appear to be petty attempts at branded marketing: the majority of posts tagged with the #rkoi hashtag are from a diversity of social classes. Wealthy, but not incredibly rich: kids desperate for some social recognition.
What is it about these extravagant displays of wealth that have so many teens eager to join their ranks? From a logical standpoint, flashing money on social media isn’t always the smartest thing to do. Government tax authorities are unashamed in charting the exploits of the RKOI kids in hopes of nabbing their naughty parents on taxation avoidance. Thanks to an image posted on social media, one such case recently recovered a $25 million yacht “hiding out” in the Bahamas.
Yet the allure of rising the ranks of social media status appears too enticing for some. The sheer numbers of RKOI spin offs are testament to the fact that we can’t help but revere wealth and reinforce implicit social hierarchies by doing so. It is true that the rise of the techie has pushed the self-made billionaire to the forefront of most consumers’ minds, and highlighted the value of hard-work, but there seems to be a special type of veneration for those merely born into wealth. We can claim we follow with tongue in cheek irony, but the reality is that, as humans, we appear destined to follow the ritualistic displays of inherited wealth with more than baited breath.
Words: Skye Maree Dixon
Images source: Instagram/Channel 4/E! Entertainment Television
Copy edited by: Elena Stanciu