Lots of pretty girls are Facebook- or Instagram-famous; they’re the new cool kids, the girls who have risen above the obscurity of suburbia thanks to social media’s virality combined with the photo-doctoring magic embedded in apps like Instagram (or in external ones like Facetune or Pixlr). On Sydney’s North Shore, for example, people talk about Edie*. “My friend pointed her out to me at a party, then I followed her on Instagram,” one teenager I talk to says. Edie is 15 and goes to a wellknown private girls’ school, the teenager says.

Edie, a beautiful brunette with brown eyes you could drown in and 8000 Instagram followers, doesn’t reply to my messages, but her selfie-crowded account is public. It’s a highvoltage exemplar of a teenage girl’s preferred poses and public image – painted, preening, sultry, fleshy and luxury-brand referencing – and owes more than a little to raunch culture.

Edie’s feed flaunts today’s ideal female body parts. Here are the reflector sunglasses, dresses like bandages and itsy-bitsy bikinis. Here is the apogee of a girl’s love affair with her device, the phone-and-mirror shot, in which she stands in front of a mirror, gazes rapturously into the device, and takes a fullbody selfie. Here are the pursed, pushed-out lips and the Snapchat dog-face filter. Here’s the bottom thrust, an essential in an age of absurdly plump Kardashian buttocks, a sort of simultaneous semi-squat, forward-side lean and bottom protrusion.

And so a schoolgirl has transformed herself into her idealised version of womanhood and launched herself into the world, a mini-adult in possession of the most prized female virtue of our age: hotness. On the social network Ask.fm, one guy recently asked, “Who are the hottest girls at [the name of a school].” Edie’s name was on the list.

Vali has more than 4400 Instagram followers and presents an online persona that eschews brash Kardashian and skews ice-cool and international, as though styled for some high-end fashion mag (although still with selfies galore). She’ll post a still-life of her passport alongside a bottle of Chanel perfume, a takeaway coffee and a Ralph Lauren tartan handbag, then follow that with a dramatic black-and-white portrait of herself, hair streaming, on a windy Irish cliff. She’ll post a pic of herself with her boyfriend, elegantly dressed at the races, and another of them lounging on a beautiful boat. In one shot, she’s in a chic gown and high heels; he’s wearing a tux and playing a grand piano.

But Vali has a double life: on the day I meet her, she’s wearing sandshoes, T-shirt and denim shorts. Her nails are bitten. She talks in a torrent. Today she’s been into the city to train for an after-school job at a shoe store. She lives with her single mother in an inner-west flat and is thinking of doing something in customs and border protection when she graduates (although she would like to model). She can tell a 747 from a 737 and likes to watch documentaries about plane disasters. She travels economy class with her mother to visit family overseas. She bought the Ralph Lauren bag at a discount fashion store. The nice boat was hired. The grand piano was at her boyfriend’s school formal venue. She appropriates vignettes of sophistication as they spin past.

– Stephanie Wood

Read more: How social media has changed everything for teenage girls

Photo Source: Flickr Images