The anti-social (media) club: Narelle Kheng
The Sam Willows singer Narelle Kheng shares more about her push-pull relationship with social media
Narelle Kheng dressed as her character in LifeSpam, Cindy.
Imagine waking up in a world where Facebook and Instagram have become obsolete, long replaced by newer alternatives. Mind-boggling, right?
Background story: 26-year-old Cindy is pushed into a whole new world after lying in a coma for the past 12 years. Having regained consciousness right in the middle of a gaming live-stream by her older brother, Kian Boon, who goes by the ‘intimidating’ name of Killbeast online, the clueless Cindy (played by Narelle Kheng from the band, The Sam Willows), is immediately launched into the world of virality and stardom.
While this might sound like a dream come true for many, (just think of all the sponsored freebies and online validation you’ll get!), Cindy is very much still a 14-year-old mired in the 2000s.
Will Cindy be able to successfully navigate all the pitfalls that come with insta-fame? Only time will tell.
Unlike Cindy, Narelle, who has over a hundred thousand followers on Instagram, is definitely familiar with the boons and banes of being Insta-famous, though it may not be something that she necessarily enjoys.
“I’m not against social media per se, but I’m not really an online kind of person. If I had the choice, I would love to not be on social media, but it’s kind of impossible these days,” the 23-year-old shared during an interview with Toggle in-between takes while filming Toggle’s latest original series, LifeSpam.
Narelle went on to explain, “Don’t get me wrong, I love social media, to a certain extent. I will [go on a social media] detox, but I wouldn’t live without it. It’s a great platform to share your life with others, or put out art or works that you’re proud of.”
With so many different people on social media these days, one is bound to come across something that just gets your goat.
For Narelle, it’s the younger kids who have a certain “delusional idea” of social media.
“What makes me upset is when I see kids trying really hard to live a certain life on social media, when it’s not genuine at all. Sometimes, they spend so much money, and everything ends up being for the ‘gram’ (Instagram) in the end. It makes me very sad, because they’re just not focusing on the legit things in life,” she mused
(Continued on next page: Narelle shares her thoughts on fidget spinners, her social media “idols” and more)
Hard at work on the set of LifeSpam.
Toggle: Can you share with us why you decided to take up this role?
Narelle: I stopped acting for a while as I was busy, but I really wanted to get back on set as I really like acting. (Ed’s note: Her last acting project was Indian Tamil rom-com film, Parandhu Sella Vaa, where she starred as Min Yuan)
I actually missed the auditions for this, because I didn’t check my emails. But after I saw the email, I really liked the premise of LifeSpam, so I got my manager to check if auditions were still open, and I eventually got the role!
The story was interesting and I really like and trust the director, he has a really good sense of humour. Comedy is one of the toughest things to do, because the writing has to be on point, if the director can’t give that humour, the whole thing is going to fall flat on its face. After I came on, I realised that we have a really good cast as well, so I was like, heng ah!
Any upcoming scenes that you’re looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to today’s scene, the wedding scene. Everyone’s here, so it’s more fun, and there’s more people to bounce off. I think this might be the scene where I’ll have to kiss Andrew Lua, so that’ll be fun. There’s lots of kissing scenes in this show, we actually have an actors group chat, where we’d just make fun of everybody.
Now, time for some hypothetical questions. If your 14-year-old self were in Cindy’s shoes, you would’ve…
I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it. The good thing about this character is that she’s a little daft, she’s not very smart, which is great, as she doesn’t really feel the burdens of society. I can’t say [how I’d react], I really cannot imagine how it’d be like to wake up in this internet era.
If you were to come up with your own “Go Viral Instantly” plan, it’ll be to…
I have no clue. If you want to ask anybody, you have to ask Xiaxue, she’ll give you a good answer, she knows all about this. I have no idea what virality is about, I don’t really get it.
Do you have any social media habits/ quirks?
I’m quite erratic, sometimes I don’t post [at all], but sometimes ,when I’m home and really bored, I’ll just spam posts.
If you could describe your online persona in one sentence…
I’m a bit more private, I guess. I asked my friends [and] they think I’m mysterious, but I don’t know if I see myself that way. I guess I’m quieter, I don’t post much of my personal life online.
Snapchat filter fun with Narelle.
A trend/object/fad that went viral that you don’t get?
Majority of them (laughs). I really don’t get virality. There was that whole thing about the vans [shoes], was it called “Damn Daniel”? I enjoy the viral stuff. I don’t get it, but it’s fun to play on.
What about fidget spinners?
Can I say [that they’re] cancer? (laughs)
What are the boons and the banes of social media, to you?
The bad thing is that people don’t live in the moment and for the moment now. Everything is just created for the ‘gram, events are done just so that people can post it online and I really hate it when people kind of “ride” on each other, just for the exposure.
To me I really value really intimate relationships and the truth is that you cannot get to a certain point on social media, you can only get a certain rapport with somebody when you speak to someone face to face.
But, I really like social media because it does bring you closer to more people in a way. The rise of social media has also pushed a lot of kids into the creative side, you see young photographers, editors, and makeup artists popping out everywhere these days, so that’s good.
Is there someone that you admire and want to get to know more online?
I’m a huge fan of Chinese-Australian photographer, director, stylist and writer, Margaret Zhang ( @margaret__zhang) on Instagram. She’s my age, graduated with a law degree, and she’s now a fashion photographer, stylist and model. She does her own self-portraits on Vogue [Magazine], and writes amazingly on her own fashion blog. She’s the epitome of good social media to me.
I also like Yan Yan Chan ( @_yanyanchan) on Instagram, she’s from Australia, super cute plus talented.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen an influencer or YouTuber post online?
If you mean ridiculous in a good way, my favourite is Xiaxue’s video where she does Sun Ho’s makeup. That was bloody hilarious, the best video of all time.
I can’t say that I agree with everything that everybody says, but I don’t think that it’s a bad thing, you’re not supposed to agree with everybody. Sometimes there’s things that I see where I don’t feel like that’s very right, but everyone’s entitled to their own opinions.
Personally I didn’t like it when a couple of YouTubers did this “burn video”, I felt that it was a little too much, because I felt that they were doing it just for the sake of trashing other people.
I cannot stand when people are self-righteous. The truth is that everybody screws up, and I like to believe that everyone is innately good. I don’t like it when people trash someone, but fail to give credit when credit is due. I’m on the fence about this, but I feel like the problem is when you attack people too personally, because I think that it’s not right lah.