Like. Flirt. Ghost: A Journey Into the Social Media Lives of Teens

Mary Choi

Lara has just updated her Instagram with a picture. It’s of her and her twin sister, Sofia, in bathing suits, doing the backstroke in crystalline water. It’s shot from afar, from a height, and the girls look like synchronized swimmers or else mermaids. They’ve taken dance classes since they were three—jazz, hip hop, and ballet—and the grace and confidence with which they move their long limbs in tandem is hypnotizing. The likes are immediate. The first comment is a classic—emoji with the heart eyes—the second, “cuties.” The third features three emoji with heart eyes.

Lara and Sofia are shy, almost painfully so, with people they don’t know. They move around in the world with heads close, chatting conspiratorially. This belies how substantial their Instagram reach is. Each 16-year-old has more than 1,000 followers, especially surprising when you realize that their feeds are locked, and the girls say they at least vaguely know every single person that follows them. Perhaps more impressive, though: Each post on their feeds has at least 300 likes—meaning that roughly a third of their followers have signaled their approval. Just to give you an idea, only a fraction of Kim Kardashian’s 78 million followers actually like her photos, about 2 percent.