The popular girls in school aren't just famous in the cafeteria anymore — they're idolized by strangers across the Internet, fueled by Instagram's "Explore" tab. Alongside what you would expect to be Instagram's most popular posts — what Kim Kardashian had for dinner usually makes it onto the page, selfies from a member of One Direction — are filtered masterpieces from otherwise anonymous teen girls. Tap on a photo of a high schooler in her cheerleading uniform and a sky-high ponytail, and you'll discover an entire world of "cheerlebrities" — underage girls with hundreds of thousands of fans. They post photos of themselves hanging out at the gym, the pool, and goofing off in chemistry class, all of which get thousands of "likes." Gabi Butler, a "cheer-famous" 10th grader from California, tells me she's been posting to Instagram for about a year. As of this writing, she has 215,137 followers.
With more and more teens commanding smartphones, Instagram has become a reflection of one's social status. Just like in high school, cheerleaders rise to the top. But it's not just high school students following them — being popular on the Internet unfortunately means being popular with some of the creeps who populate it.
Instagram is a window into the private lives of cheerlebrities: their massive following knows who they're dating, what tumbling moves they can do, and what Bible verses are their favorites. Even Victoria's Secret models have been sucked into the cheerlebrity world:
Just had to pull myself out of this weird Instagram rabbit hole of competition cheerleaders and their boyfriends and oversexed groupies— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) November 19, 2013
"I didn't expect to get so many, I just kind of did my own thing and posted whatever I was doing, like a lot of cheer stuff," Gabi told The Wire. She already had a lot of followers on Facebook, "so when Instagram came out, everybody was like 'oh, all the cheer-famous people must have Instagram.' ... It kind of just got bigger and bigger."