"Lord Aleem" jumping out of an Audi R8 Spyder. Photo via @lordaleem_official
The Rich Kids of Instagram (#RKOI) is a group made up of the sons and daughters of the world's one-percenters. They enjoy showing the internet how filthy-rich they are, posting pictures of themselves jumping into the water out of helicopters and their gaudy toilets made of gold tiles, among other annoying things. But if you look past the worry-free lifestyle they promote on social media, you'll find they have it just as hard as the rest of us. Last week, “Lord Aleem”—a.k.a. 19-year-old Aleem Iqbal, whose father owns a Birmingham, UK–based luxury-car rental firm—had four vehicles torched in as many days, totaling around $850,000 worth of damage. Of course, you might argue it was his own fault—that any of us might attract the attention of arsonists if we relentlessly posted photos of our luxury-car collections—but it's never a nice feeling to watch your most valued possessions being set on fire.
Following the attacks, Aleem suggested that they could either be “a vile act of jealously,” or simply some “mindless vandals on an arson spree.” Regardless of the motive, he promised that “when they get caught” they’ll be “going down for a long time.”
Speculative statements are all well and good, but the news still made me wonder whether any other #RKOI are now worried that their own belongings are going to be targeted by marauding fire starters. To find out, I searched for the Rich Kids of Instagram hashtag and spoke to a few of the people I found.
A typical Instagram post from @a_george_life (Click to enlarge)
VICE: What do you think of what's happened to Lord Aleem?
@a_george_life: Lord Aleem shared his address on Instagram, which was a mistake. I've met Aleem a few times. He's a polite and kind-natured individual, but he sometimes lets his "fame" get ahead of him.
Do you worry a similar thing could happen to you?
I keep a tight lid on my location, and I’ve never taken pictures of my house or of the area I live in. I have a very high level of security, so I feel safe. You're right—you never know if someone is planning to attack you out of jealousy, but I'm well prepared for such an event.
You don't share your address, but you do post photos of license plates and that kind of thing.
The plates don't matter because I register the cars in other people's names and keep them in garages. Besides, I've since sold a lot of cars on there and now have different ones.
Why did you first decide to show the internet how wealthy you are?
I simply enjoy looking at other people's pictures, and I'm sure people enjoy mine. For example, I buy rounds of drinks because I like to share what I have with my friends. I like to give other people an insight into that lifestyle. I don’t do it to flaunt my wealth or try to be a Z-list celebrity—I use #RKOI to help share my pictures because Rich Kids of Instagram is popular and I'm happy people gain pleasure from my pictures.
Fair enough. Do you get many haters online?
I receive very little backlash from haters, but when I do it doesn't bother me; I couldn't care less about the opinion of someone I don’t know. I appreciate kind words because I believe a positive attitude leads to positive accomplishments, whereas being negative leads nowhere.
A typical Instagram post from @akinbelfon17 (Click to enlarge)
Does it worry you that what happened to Lord Aleem could potentially happen to you?
@akinbelfon17: Yes, it worries me that I may be the target of thieves, and that’s why I don't give out my personal information to anyone who contacts me online.
Do you think it's a good idea to flaunt your wealth online?
I do think it’s a good idea, because I’m not doing it to make anyone feel bad—I’m just doing it because it’s fun and people like the pictures I post. They don't take it too seriously or as an insult.
You describe your occupation as #funemployed on your Instagram.
Yeah, I think "funemployed" describes the life I'm living perfectly, and I don’t think it has any bad connotations. I don't plan on being funemployed for the rest of my life. I know eventually that I might have to get a job and start supporting myself.
Do you think there are any problems with being famous for simply being a #RKOI?
No. I hope to become famous from the pictures I post. I don't think it’s a problem. Many people have become famous just for posting pictures on Instagram and videos on the internet. Some people have even got their own reality show for being a #RKOI.
A typical Instagram post from Luke (Click to enlarge)
Does it worry you that you could find yourself in the same situation as Lord Aleem?
Luke: I must say, it is pretty horrifying. We must never forget that the internet is real life, and some people pay the price for it. Even if I love showing off my luxurious lifestyle on Instagram, I tend to be much more discreet in real life. I wouldn't want something like that to happen to me.
But you have no problem flaunting your wealth online?
I enjoy sharing my lifestyle with the world, and it’s also a way to provoke and shock some people. And it’s not really flaunting—it’s just my daily life documented. Plus, I really think that people need to see that if you work hard you'll get whatever you want. Work hard and play hard!
Do you get much backlash over any of the images you post?
Not really. It’s much more like a mix of admiration and jealousy. I don’t think people see rich people in a good way, and therefore they use social media like Instagram to spread their hate. But, in the end, they just crave the same life.
OK. Would anything stop you from uploading the images you post?
Maybe I’ll stop uploading. Even though nothing like what happened to Lord Aleem has happened to me, it’s starting to frighten me.
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