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            10 / 12 / 16

            Lil Miquela is the post-truthiest celebrity on Instagram

            • The Instagram effect is alive and well. Our favorite feel-bad platform has the unique ability to slap you in the face with perfect photos of perfect people enjoying a perfect weekend brunch. During a simple swipe through your Discovery page, you’re bound to encounter Insta-famous lifestyle gurus such as Chiara Ferragni (7.3M followers), who apparently wears Christian Dior underwear.

              If you’re an art nerd like me, maybe you follow Gaia Matisse, great granddaughter of painter Henri Matisse, if only for the photos of her glamorous squad at the Art Basel Miami.

            • The discrepancy between my life and the lifestyles depicted by these celebs on Instagram made the app feel like augmented reality already. So it was no great surprise when, a few days ago, I stumbled upon Lil Miquela: the Instagram lifestyle guru whose 127,000 followers can’t decide if she exists in real life.

              Lil Miquela sits somewhere between an avatar and an Insta-model. Her face has an inexplicably smooth, airbrushed quality, and ever so slightly exaggerated features, as if they’ve been digitally manipulated. She dresses like a real person – note the de rigueur choker and graphic T-shirt – But the juxtaposition between her authentic-seeming style and silicone-like skin instill a feeling of great unease, that uncanny valley stomach lurch.

              Her fans’ see her as everything from a “real but heavily Photoshopped person” to a “marketing stunt for upcoming Sims launch”. To me, she looks as if she stepped straight out of a video game. Whatever she is, Lil Miquela has blurred the boundaries between reality and fiction on social media.

              Miquela often stands next to real people or references them in her quirky captions, so even if she’s more virtual than human, she does leverage an accessible, just-like-us! tone in her posts.

              Her account brings pertinent questions to the surface:

              If what we're seeing are treated photos of the account holder herself, does that make her real? What if Miquela was created by a 40-year-old guy who's just good at CGI? Where do we draw the line between what's real and what's fake? Is Kim Kardashian’s booty real? What percentage of a real person has to be behind the screen for us to consider Miquela real?

              Lil Miquela is the epitome of Instagram subculture of girls with alter egos, who only really exist on the Internet. To me, the entire account is a strong comment on the unrealistic perceptions projected by so many on social media platforms.

              We’ve faced ambiguous female cyborgs and avatars in movies like Her and now, as well as Apple’s Siri, we have Amazon’s Alexa, a personal assistant that provides information, news, sports scores, weather and more. Reality is becoming more and more slippery in cinema, politics, technology and now social media, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

              Led by our Digital Forensics team, Pulse is a weekly series exploring online culture

              • Article by Ana Turco-Rivas