This article develops a critical analysis of Instagram’s influencer economy by introducing and unpacking a phenomenon we call shoppable life. The term shoppable life is intended to capture the ideas that: (a) social media users perform lifestyles whose constituent elements can be bought; and (b) sociality increasingly unfolds within platforms that encode marketplace logics and capacities into their designs. Drawing on literatures about consumer culture, celebrity, and digital labor; interviews with 25 participants in Instagram’s influencer economy; and industry texts, we elucidate the power dynamics and contradictions manifested in constructing a shoppable life. We emphasize how social media users navigate the imperative to produce an “authentic” but branded and monetizable self, the personal risk they bear in doing so, and the stakeholders who mediate and profit from these productions. We also highlight conceptual points of entry for critical attention to the logic of shoppability, which increasingly pervades spaces and cultures.
"A Shoppable Life: Performance, Selfhood, and Influence in the Social Media Storefront." Communication, Culture & Critique, 2019.