Four-legged Rich Kids of Instagram
hat do you get if you combine images of conspicuous consumption with pictures of cute animals? A viral sensation that was waiting to happen. When first confronted with these photographs of dogs surrounded by all the trappings of extreme wealth, your initial thought might be, why is this happening? But this is the wrong question. Really, what we should be asking ourselves is, “Why has this taken so long?” Because if you know anything about the internet, you will know that two of the things people love to look at more than anything else are: a) voyeuristic images of conspicuous consumption; and b) pictures of cute, slightly anthropomorphised animals. Combine the two and – tada! – say hello to Rich Dogs of Instagram, the viral craze that was pretty much guaranteed to happen at some point.
Witness, for example, a terrier posing with a glass of pink champagne on the deck of a yacht. A trio of poodles wearing sunglasses and sitting in a vintage convertible. A smug-looking pomeranian enjoying a manicure on a pink and gold throne. Everything about these photographs – right down to the tropical blue skies, Chanel shopping bags and bottles of Moët – will be immediately familiar to any of the millions of people who regularly visit the Rich Kids of Instagram blog, the web’s premier repository of images culled from the social media accounts of the world’s most affluent youth.
To be a Rich Kid of Instagram (RKOI) is to engage in the shameless celebration of wealth and privilege, and their photographs are equal parts kitsch, crass and weirdly compelling. Half the time it’s impossible to figure out whether they have absolutely no idea how obnoxious they seem, or whether they’re perfectly aware and simply don’t care.
The Rich Dogs of Instagram account was created in February by American writer Kaylin Pound, and was conceived as a piece of satire. “Seeing all that frivolously spent money [on Rich Kids of Instagram] made me feel like I needed to do something to make the world a better place,” she says. “I was thinking of other ways to make fun of the rich kids, and I was actually surprised nobody had done it with dogs yet.”
She scoured the web for photos of the most extravagantly presented pets, finding regular models in Cookie the Yorkshire terrier and Mini Pita the shih tzu. You will notice, as you scroll through all the images Pound has collected and curated, that particular breeds tend to recur. Pugs. Miniature schnauzers. Chihuahuas. Small, yappy fashion-accessory dogs that could conceivably fit in your Louis Vuitton hand luggage.
Proper mutts, in other words, are thin on the ground. And this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The Rich Dogs of Instagram we see here obviously all belong to Rich Kids of Instagram anyway because, as a rule, normal people don’t tend to post images of their pets standing atop
a huge tower of bundled banknotes or wearing diamond-studded collars. It makes you wonder whether it’s even possible to satirise effectively the Rich Kids of Instagram at all, given they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it themselves via their own pets. But it also poses a much broader question: Why are we so attracted to videos and photographs of lovable animals? What is it about them that hits such a sweet spot in our psyche?
According to British clinical psychologist Dr Cecilia D’Felice, a huge factor is the increasingly anodyne, technology-focused lives we lead. “Many, many millions of people are now completely sedentary, sitting in an office in front of a computer screen, disconnected from nature,” she says. “But these animals are elemental. We project qualities onto them. The things that they do can seem very funny when they’re actually just instinctive. We imagine they have a sense of humour, and that allows us to have a certain amount of relief from our own work experiences of sitting in front of a screen.”
But how come we particularly enjoy seeing images of dogs living the high life? A few Rich Cats of Instagram do exist but, to be honest, they don’t exactly exhibit the same joie de vivre. On the one hand, this could just be a question of practicality. I mean, have you ever tried to get a cat to wear a pair of sunglasses or sit on the back of a thoroughbred horse long enough to take a picture? Exactly. But I think there could be more to it. We spend our entire lives having cats lord it over us, and deep down, I don’t think we really want to see them lording it over us even more. It’s part of the reason why so many of the most popular online cat videos show them startled, confused or mildly humiliated. It’s hubris. We like to see them brought down a peg or two, basically.
But dogs? Loyal, unfussy, dependable dogs? They deserve their sparkling wine and their sports cars and their exotic holidays. Every dog has its day and here are lots of them, having theirs. And even if they don’t really know exactly what’s going on, they still seem happy enough, which just makes us like them even more. At the end of the day, photos of dogs looking as if they’ve just sold a Fortune 500 company are always going to make us laugh.
“Dogs on planes are funny,” says Pound, who suggests this is not a phenomenon we need to overthink. “Dogs with Chanel shopping bags are funny. I mean, there’s just always going to be something really funny about a dog wearing a fur coat.”
Have you ever tried to get a cat to wear a pair of sunglasses or sit on the back of a thoroughbred horse long enough to take a picture?Exactly.