‘Ingrid Goes West’ Is the ‘Single White Female’ for the Digital Age

In a time not too long ago, celebrities were beautiful, rich and famous unattainable images hanging on teenagers’ walls and adorning magazine covers by the check-out stand. Before these idols were, well, idols, they had to wait tables or schlep drinks while they went to humiliating audition after audition until they were “discovered.”

Though that is still the case for most people, you no longer have to pack up your car and move to New York or Los Angeles in your bid for stardom. If you get enough hits on YouTube, enough followers on Instagram or if your video goes viral on Facebook, you too could become a star. And whether you’re a traditional star or a social media influencer, there is always the risk of attracting a stalker, a danger that leads us to the meat of the new film, ‘Ingrid Goes West.’

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is an unhinged social media stalker with a history of confusing “likes” for meaningful relationships. Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) is an Instagram-famous “influencer” whose perfectly curated, boho-chic lifestyle becomes Ingrid’s latest obsession. When Ingrid moves to L.A. and manages to insert herself into the social media star’s life, their relationship quickly goes from #BFF to #WTF. Built around a disarming performance from Plaza, Ingrid Goes West (winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance) is a dark comedy that satirizes the modern world of social media and proves that being #perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The film begins as tear-stained Ingrid barges into a wedding to pepper-spray the bride, a woman we soon find out she barely even knows. After a brief visit to the psych ward, Ingrid is back home and obsessively scrolling through Instagram in her pajamas. Ingrid’s M.O. is mistaking social media likes for actual human connection — something she sorely lacks — and so it doesn’t take long for her to zero in on a new target in Taylor. An innocent reply to a comment on Instagram later and Ingrid has cashed in her modest inheritance to move to L.A. and obsessively remake herself in Taylor’s image.

Social media has ingrained itself into our daily lives. Many of us post personal or professional updates regularly. For better or worse, many people get their news from social media. We know what people around the world are doing without ever seeing them in person. Some jobs now want to know about your social media imprint.

The benefits of social media are many. We can easily keep in touch with friends and family members who don’t live nearby. Information can be shared with thousands of people in seconds. You can follow idols online. On the other hand, the drawbacks of social media are many as well. Studies have shown that social media is making people feel, ironically, even lonelier. Social media can blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

Do people “like” you if they are your friends or followers on social media? If your latest selfie garners way fewer likes than the last one, will that hurt your self-esteem? If a stranger likes your post, does that increase your self-worth?

‘Ingrid Goes West’ brilliantly shows how easily lines can be blurred. Ingrid’s self-worth is completely shaped by her “friendship” with Taylor – a dynamic completely manipulated by Ingrid. Friendships built under false pretenses usually fail miserably, and Ingrid’s and Taylor’s is no exception. Without giving away any #spoilers, Ingrid’s desperate last-ditch attempt to win Taylor back fails but turns her into the social media celebrity she’s been so obsessed with. In the end, Ingrid gets the last #LOL, and so does the audience.

Ingrid Goes West’ opens in New York and Los Angeles August 11 and nationwide August 25.