The first time I realized the power of Will Smith’s Instagram account was New Year’s Eve, 2017. At the time, Smith joining the popular social network was a novelty. Maybe it would be him being corny in regards to promoting Bright or teasing Christmas photos, I thought. The first image I saw on Smith’s page came days after he was being a goofy dad sharing terrible Christmas sweaters and moments with the family. He wrote a letter to his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith on the 20th anniversary of his wedding. Resharing the image on Twitter, I asked a very simple question: “How is Will Smith so good on Instagram?” The resulting replies nearly broke my notifications.
The phenomenon happened again on Super Bowl Sunday. Smith, using Instagram and editing tools befitting of a Hollywood movie made a trailer for how he was rooting for his hometown Philadelphia Eagles, complete with corny, lanky bird dance to boot. At this rate, letting people know Will Smith did a thing is the closest thing to going viral without really trying.
By now, it’s likely you’ve made the conscious decision to follow Smith on Instagram. Even though it has been a very Philadelphia-focused two weeks in America, following the Fresh Prince on Instagram is a real joy. In less than three months, Smith has posted 66 times. Those 66 items have led him to amass 9.3 million followers. That number will probably grow as I’m posting this.
Smith’s Instagram found a way to navigate around what everyone else hates about the social media platform. In a way, he revived it beyond “like”-chasing and a dodgy algorithm that avoids doing what most users want. It became viral, a goofy collection of Smith being a loving parent to son Jaden, a husband, a motivational speaker, and perhaps the most famous Philadelphia Eagle fan around. Against all odds, the third act of Smith’s career following his pioneering rap career and being the most significant box office draw in the world is one that combines all of his talents into an unlikely social media star. Quirky celebrities get by with doing mundane, basic things on the ‘Gram. Smith? Always above and beyond.
“I’m lovin’ IG,” he commented on one post where he was attempting to avoid jury duty. “The free-form self-expression is Crazy Nourishing.”