Radio Interview: The not-so-secret life of Caroline Calloway, the Instagram Mogul

Morwenna Jones & Eddie Millett 17 May 2014

Instagram sensation Caroline Calloway is best known for her “#adventuregrams” that have earned her 70,000 followers.  She attended Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school in New Hampshire, and after graduating in 2010 she spent three years traveling around the world and living in New York City before coming to Cambridge.  She is in her first year of History of Art at St Edmund’s College. On the 9th of May, she came to talk to us before our Cam FM show.

“I’d like people to know that Eddie and I are actually friends!” Caroline says emphatically as our interview draws to a close, referring to the continual taunting that’s flown back and forth across the studio between them.  “I love Eddie, he’s great!”

Such outbursts appear pretty typical for Caroline and, if I’m honest, she’s not what I was expecting.  With 70,000 Instagram followers, ardent fans pleading her to write a book and a habit for dating gorgeous (and I mean really gorgeous) boyfriends, I’d imagined an over-confident, image-obsessed and frighteningly clever American strutting into the Cam FM studio demanding her free publicity as her due.

Instead, Caroline arrived at the studio, nattering away to Eddie about the all-nighter she’d just pulled.  “I feel like I need to give a disclaimer, I haven’t slept in seventy hours”, she confesses.  “Words just aren’t working for me now”.

Eddie and I would probably disagree.  As Eddie plays around setting up for the show, Caroline is busy taking photos and talking, non stop about everything and anything.  When we eventually get on to discussing her blog, she’s amazingly honest.  “You guys!” She squeals as Eddie and I praise her frank, intimate little expositions of her day-to-day life.  “Wow!  I’m sitting here smiling like an idiot!  I don’t even know what to say.”

She tells us about how the blog came into being and it’s clear from her frequent witty and hilarious anecdotes that storytelling is a real passion of hers.  “I’ve always loved it”, she says.  “When I was little, before I could even write, I’d dictate stories to my mom who’d write them out on our nineties desktop computer!  Over time, I’ve just started writing more and more I guess”, she adds, nonchalantly.

The blog itself, however, isn’t your average, run-of-the-mill life story.  It’s on Instagram.  “Yeah, I know what you’re thinking”, Caroline jokes, “stories?  On the image-based social-media platform Instagram?  But I’ve been running it for about a year now”.  She pauses for breath.  “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and so many people our age are like ‘yeah, I wanna do this but I’m not gonna start now!’ and, well, I did.

Does she lead the charmed existence her followers think she does?  Her pieces in New York make her sound like a modern-day Carrie Bradshaw (Eddie looks confused at the mention of this unknown nineties-icon and Caroline makes a face at him).  What does she make of that?

“I don’t actually think I go to the best parties, I’m just glad people like it” she exclaims.  “I feel so bad for those people that actually take life-advice from me.  I’m sorry that things are so bad for them that they’re looking to someone who knows as little as me!”

She stops laughing and pauses when we talk about people asking her how to live their lives.  “I’d like to emphasise how unglamorous my life is,” she says, frankly.  “It’s just social media.  David Foster Wallace once said that “the reason we have books is so that we feel less lonely.  Social media often has the opposite effect and makes everybody feel more lonely.  Everybody exaggerates the most quotidian tasks, it’s like ‘amazing cappuccino!  Friends!  Gah!’”  

But despite her thinking like this, her own use of social media is brutally intimate.  One of her most comic photos is a selfie of herself crying as she left New York with the story featuring, in capital letters, “THIS IS A CRAZY THING TO DO”.  How does she feel exposing her life like this?

“I actually care less about people I don’t know reading it than people I do know” she admits “For example, every time I upload a picture of Oscar [until now known as ‘Swedish boyfriend’], Josh [her ex] sees that”. 

In general however, most of the photos are seen by her extended family of worshipping fans, although some are more eccentric than others.  “I’m so glad you guys and normal people identify with my stuff!” she gushes, during one of the gaps as a song plays.  “The first time I got a really sweet comment, it was from some person whose profile picture was just their left eye and whose photos were all of their cat.  It’s so cool that you like it too!”

As Eddie and I embarrass ourselves throughout the show by repeatedly saying how awesome Caroline’s #adventuregrams are, it’s clear that we don’t just like her blog, we love it and it’s hard not to love her too.  Although, on air, she tells Cambridge that she ‘just has no people skills on no sleep’, throughout the whole interview she’s utterly hilarious and completely charming.

Our next interviewees arrive and she gets up to leave the studio.  “This was great” she says.  “Can we just all be on the radio, all the time?”