Written by Gabriella Bluestone, who was also the executive producer of the Netflix documentary Fyre, Hype essentially covers how Billy McFarland successfully created the hype for Fire Festival which ended up being a scam.
The book through its eight chapters chronicles the events that led up to the Fire Festival and the aftermath they endured when nothing materialised. McFarland is a very shrewd and clever man. He started young in being able to successfully con people into paying him. He knew how to play the ropes in his social circle. He knew how to get the attention of the elites and celebrities. His smooth talking demeanour and clever business mindset allowed him to ride all the way to the top.
Having hired bunch of A-List celebrities and supermodels, and influencers, McFarland along with Ja Rule, were able to successfully create the hype and buzz online about the upcoming festival. People wanted to buy tickets to the most happening event happening. Instagram was buzzing with excitement, ads were being shot, and celebrities were endorsing the Fyre Festival like it’s the next big thing.
A day before the event was to happen, the stage wasn’t set up, and all the people who showed up had no accommodation. It was a disaster and the event never happened.
Interspersed in between McFarland story, we are also shown examples of others who have successfully conned the public at large. One example is of a woman who took her holiday pictures in Bali, while in reality they were all taken at a local Ikea store in California. She had deliberately left the furniture tags visible but her followers were all convinced she was in Bali. Her point was that everyone thinks what they see online is the truth.
Essentially, the bottom line is that the influencer culture is all about marketing and money. Since we are free users to these influencers, they get to make money off us. We are all promoting something online.
“What lesson did you learn?”
“You learned that you can rake $30million, blow it on a massive party over the course of a year do three and a half years in jail or four years in jail, which is what my undergraduate was, and leave with more money and more notoriety and more success than you could have done by working a quiet job at the Sprint store making $60,000 a year plus health care. What was learned? I think the lesson was ,’Maybe college isn’t the fifth call. Maybe I need to set up my own fake festival.'” (page 53)
“I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these larger than life moneymen seem to live so comfortable in the gap between their promises and reality. They’re good at getting other people to go along with their ideas. They’re hailed as visionaries. And they never let the truth stop them from a good marketing campaign.” (page 63)
Why we follow
“We’re in a yield-starved environment. People want to be part of the zeitgeist. Social media allows you to see other investments that became lifestyles and brands in a way that nobody’s going to get excited about picking the stock of an oil and gas company in Oklahoma.” (page 67)
“When we start to objectify the other, when we start to put people on pedestals- we lose sight of the fact that they’re just people, and people have flaws, no matter how great they are. And I think Elon Musk is an example of that; Steve Jobs is an example of that, in the way that it sounds like he was really a challenging person to work for, and a bit of a monster.” (page 75)
“So he (Billy McFarland) had a real charisma and a real, great big vision that those tech people and those tech investors get very mesmerised by it.” (page 85)
“The more we observe people being rewarded for particular behaviours, the more likely we are to emulate them.” (page 203)
“The average social media user might be the customer for influencers, but at some point down the line, we also consented to selling our own data for the privilege. ,In exchange for some social interaction and a big hit of affirmation these apps get to track us across the internet- and off it- and sell the information to advertisers and shadowy data brokers who compile profiles of us and then sell them to over advertisers until every ad we see has been carefully targeted just for us.” (page 196)
Arousal of Emotions
“But worse than that, the platforms are constantly learning how to keep us locked into their sites for as long as possible, which means algorithmically learning how to arouse our emotions…” (page 197)
“Studies have also shown direct links between the use of social media like Instagram and Facebook and increased social comparisons and negative affective states such as envy and jealousy.” (page 208)
“Every post we make is essentially just an advertisement of our personalities that we’re hoping someone might deem worthy of an investment or a like or comment. I think people see that as a path to success in some way now.” (page 197)
“Because influencers aren’t just buying fake followers to charge advertisers more- they also want their followers to think more positively of them.” (page 226)
“Close to 50 millions users on Twitter are fake.” (page 226)
Why we fall for scams
“We have become more isolated, we’re lonelier, out emotions are there more easily manipulated and this is why we fall for scams. When you see how lonely we really are on a regular basis, I think that’s one of the big factors as to why, even though we have the tools at our disposal, a part of us just wants to be fooled just so we can feel less alone.” (page 197)