To participate in the Bow Wow Challenge, you need only to understand the unspoken rules of Instagram. Take a photo that, whether by a clever trick of framing, perspective, or just a nice filter, gives your followers the impression that the life you live is far more glamorous than it is. Post the final image vs. the full view, and you’re done.
The joke, which is rapidly spreading around Twitter, is named for rapper Shad Moss, aka Bow Wow, formerly Lil’ Bow Wow. On May 8th, Bow Wow posted a photo on Instagram of a fine-looking jet, with a caption about traveling to NYC. Unlike the rest of us, who settle for shots of cramped seats or pretty clouds, Bow Wow wanted us to know he rolls in style.
Except that isn’t actually his photo.
A quick Google image search on Bow Wow’s Instagram leads to MIA VIP Transportation, which describes itself as “an executive group transportation company” located in Florida. The full file image is stored under a broken URL for corporate VIP vehicles, but the header image for MIA VIP Transportation’s website seems to be the same picture Bow Wow posted (though it’s hella stretched out). Note the model of the van and the world’s saddest VIP red carpet.
On Twitter, users started passing around a Snapchat image pointing out that Bow Wow’s trip was also more, ahem, public than it appears.
As news about Bow Wow’s post has spread, people have responded by getting creative with their own deceptive aspirational images. Twitter users are posting pictures to the #BowWowChallenge hashtag featuring relationship goals, dream vacations, toy cars shot to look like fancy, full-size rides, and much more.
Bow Wow never explicitly said he was flying on a private jet in his Instagram post, and he could argue that the lifted photo is a nod to being chauffeured there, aka a fancier version of when us normal people take a taxi. But it still doesn’t explain why he’d post the photo as his own, especially when images are so easy to track online.
Instagram is for bluffing. Whether that means sheltering yourself from problems in the real world or spicing up your selfies, it’s best used for social escapism. No one lives a perfect life, not even your favorite celebrity. But the site gives us all an equal shot to act like we’re cooler than we are.
At least, if you know what you’re doing, and are lucky enough to not get caught. Some easy advice for any social media user hoping to impress their friends: keep it simple.