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The Daily Illini

Fyre Festival: A social media fueled disaster

By Tyler Panlilio, Columnist

Some are calling it a modern day “Lord of the Flies,” others are calling it a real life “Hunger Games.” Either way, the overly-hyped Fyre Festival turned out to be a massive disappointment: Its promise of luxurious food, music and adventure were never met.

If you have an Instagram or Snapchat, it’s likely that you’ve stumbled upon some sort of promotion in the past few months for the “music festival of the decade” by celebrity models like Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski, among others.

Located on the privately-owned island of Grande Exuma in the Bahamas, Fyre Festival planned to showcase big-name artists like Blink-182, Disclosure and Migos this past weekend. Alongside villas, yachts and a beautiful island to explore — depending on the type of package you bought — the experience seemed to be unforgettable.

But attendees are going to remember this festival for all the wrong reasons. As of now, the festival has been postponed.

Music festivals have been catering more toward our age group because we tend to bring in the most money. Events like Lollapalooza and Coachella receive publicity each year because those who go tell their friends about it in real life and post about it on social media.

Even in high school, I remember the screams of joy from teenage girls who had just secured a four-day pass to Lollapalooza. Seeing Snapchat stories and Twitter posts about it weren’t uncommon either. Music festivals never failed to attract teenagers because they were labeled as “cool experiences.”

And they really are. Seeing your favorite artists perform live can be amazing, and knowing there’s an absence of parents and an abundance of teenagers only makes it more appealing.

But if music festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella were for everyone, Fyre Festival was for the real cool kids. Until everyone showed up.

The festival promised luxury in almost every aspect — and delivered none of it. Attendees were met with shelters that looked more like disaster relief tents than the high-class accommodations that were promised. Food was as mediocre as the stuff served in your high school cafeteria.

In terms of performance and production, every artist dropped from the initial lineup, and a majority of the production team got fired due to budget constraints. Overall, there was a lack of communication from every party involved.

The worst part about the whole ordeal wasn’t that it turned out to be a huge fluke, but rather that people actually believed that it wasn’t going to be.

Fyre Festival was sketchy from the start. The announcement trailer was nothing more than a bunch of girls in bikinis gazing playfully at a camera with stock videos of tropical islands, concerts and planes sprinkled in between.

The genius behind the festival isn’t exactly the most truthful individual, either. A simple Google search provides you with enough convincing evidence that Billy McFarland, the main promoter for the event, has a history of empty promises regarding his companies.

Yet these people still blindly spent thousands of dollars for a ticket to something that essentially appeared out of thin air.

I’m not saying that the attendees deserve what happened to them; the whole situation is just awful. But it’d be difficult to believe that these people wouldn’t post about this on social media. And if there’s one thing in common that almost all the attendees have, it’s an Instagram account.

The amount of big names promoting the event was what really pushed Fyre Festival into popularity. Bella Hadid, Alessandra Ambrosio and Hailey Baldwin promoted Fyre Festival alongside Jenner and Ratajkowski on their Instagram accounts.

With each of these models having millions of followers across multiple social media platforms — and Jenner herself having almost 80 million on Instagram alone — it’s easy to see how much hype surrounded the event. And there’s no way any rational person would think that these A-listers would actually attend the two-week festival.

These celebrities shouldn’t be taking full responsibility, however. When it comes down to it, promoting products and events is what they do — they’re models, after all. Each of them were asked to do their job, and they did it.

While Fyre has been transparent since the initial backlash by refunding tickets, providing flights back and even promising all attendees free VIP passes to their revised festival in 2018, the damage has been done. Whether it was truly a scam or not, it’s difficult to see a brighter future for the company.

If anything, this should be a lesson to everyone. Fyre Festival accurately captured the worst aspects of social media and wrapped it with a nice little ribbon on top. Glorification of materialistic lifestyles, an excessive amount of girls in bikinis and a false sense of fulfillment for doing “cool” things. There’s no depth or meaning in any of it.

People can’t expect everything to happen as it was originally planned. And this doesn’t just apply to events and festivals, either. There will be a lot of letdowns in life, and sometimes you can’t do anything to prevent it.

But in this case, these people definitely could have done some research before impulsively spending their (or their parents’) money.

Because if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Tyler is a freshman in Media.

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