If You Don't Got It, Fake It: The #BowWowChallenge and Social Media

May 10th 2017

Mike Rothschild

When you're a celebrity known for flaunting your wealth, and you get caught lying about it, be prepared for some viral ridicule. Such was the case on social media when rapper Bow Wow was caught flying commercial to New York — after posting a picture on Instagram of a private jet, implying that's how he was getting there.



After a Twitter user juxtaposed his picture of Bow Wow flying commercial with the Instagram picture, the ridicule was unleashed. And when it turned out that what Bow Wow had actually posted was a stock photo used by a private jet company in Florida, Twitter exploded.



Soon, people all over the world were doing the #bowwowchallenge: taking a picture that makes it look like you're showing off your wealth when, actually, you're not that well off. Bow Wow's fakery was mercilessly mocked, and the hashtag became one of the top trends on Twitter, even during a day full of political mayhem. 








While the challenge has resulted in some inspired mockery, there's a detrimental effect to seeing so much largesse on social media that's very real, even if the flaunting is often fake. Sometimes, people respond to conspicuous displays of money with mockery, such as the pictures mocking the tag "rich kids of Instagram." Other times, though, people turn inward in a way that harms their mental health.

As Psychology Today reported in March, "according to a recent study by UK disability charity Scope, of 1,500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62 percent reported feeling inadequate and 60 percent reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users."




Envy is particularly exacerbated by seeing the exciting and wealth-flaunting lives of other people on social media, which spurs feelings of inadequacy. A 2015 study by the University of Copenhagen divided a group of 1,100 people and told half to abstain from Facebook for a week. Those that did saw marked reductions in their negative feelings, particularly with respect to what the study termed "Facebook-related envy."

A University of Pittsburgh study also found as much. Researchers gave 1,787 adults aged between 19 and 32 a questionnaire to determine their social media use and measured their perceived social isolation. They found that "participants who used social media more than two hours a day had twice the odds for perceived social isolation than their peers who spent less than half an hour on social media each day," according to The Telegraph.



So while mocking Bow Wow's self-own has provided plenty of fun for people, that he felt compelled to flaunt wealth that doesn't exist speaks to the pressures imposed by materialism and social media.