We’re all aware of the media circus surrounding Rob Pattinson. After all, it’s not every day that you see a young and beautiful woman walking down the street wearing nothing but a black velvet dress and stilettos.

What many of us don’t know is how much of the recent attention is deserved. While the tabloid press have latched on to the 26-year-old actor’s physique like a monkey on steroids, it’s the photographer who captured it all that deserves the plaudits.

Pattinson made his name to the wider public after being cast as Edward Cullen in the adaptation of ‘Twilight’. Since the success of the series, he’s gone on to play key supporting roles in films such as ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ and has become known for his comedic timing and impeccable dress sense.

Here, we look at the truth behind the ‘rover’ phenomenon.

The ‘Rover’ Phenomenon

If you’ve been paying attention to the tabloids, you might have noticed a theme developing. Since the start of the year, there have been a string of stories featuring celebrities’ yachts, luxury cars and mansions bought by the rich and famous. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s no surprise that the spotlight is increasingly being shone on the wealthy, especially those connected to the entertainment industry.

In January 2017, it was reported that ‘Rover’ the pugilist had been bought for a six-figure sum by music mogul and fashion tycoon Simon Fuller. The money, which came from the sale of his yacht, ‘Aquarius’, went towards veterinary bills, as Rover had become an expensive pet to rehome.

A month earlier, Paris Hilton had purchased a ‘$2.5 million Bugatti Veyron’ for her 24th birthday. And just this week it was reported that actor Steven Seagal had spent “over $1.5 million” on a 62-foot yacht for sale in the Mediterranean.

While these purchases may appear to be indulgent excess, they serve a key function for the 1%. When the world’s wealthiest buy luxury items, it often means one thing: they can’t afford them. As society becomes more unequal, the wealthy are turning to luxurious hobbies and habits to maintain their status.

Luxury Hobbies

According to an article by Newsweek, since the start of this year, the cost of owning a private island has tripled in price. The same article reported that helicopter rides have become a status symbol among the wealthy, with a popular choice among those who can afford them being the “Petersburg [sic] tandem helicopter flight,” which costs a whopping $260,000 per person. Other popular luxury hobbies reported in the story include yacht deliveries, Formula 1 races, and opera tickets.

The Rise Of Alternative Media

The rich have always had flamboyant hobbies and interests, from yachting to racing cars, flying helicopters and jumping off bridges. However, the rise of the new media and social media has meant that the wealthy can now maintain many of their expensive lifestyle choices through platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

According to a recent Vogue article, “For the fashion-minded millennial, owning an original piece of clothing isn’t enough—they want to be able to express their individuality through their smartphone’s screen.” The piece continues, “Many have turned to social media platforms to fulfill this desire for individuality, with over 310 million people logging onto Instagram every day.”

In the same way that the internet gave birth to ‘lol’ and ‘wtf’ blogging, social media has enabled a new style of ‘tweeting’ and ‘gramming’—it’s called “influencer marketing” and it’s a way of selling your product or service through a celebrity’s followers.

This trend isn’t a new phenomenon. Back in 2017, it was reported that Kylie Jenner was earning $1.7 million a day through her Instagram account, where she promotes a range of luxury goods, including clothing, fragrances and health products. At last count, it’s been estimated that there are over 3.7 million influencers on TikTok, and the number is growing every day.

While many of these influencers are just using the platform to flaunt their wealth (and in some cases, to show off their lavish lifestyles), there are a number of them who are using their influence for good. Just this week, it was reported that influencer Julia Choi uses her platform to give talks about body positivity and encourage her followers to love what they have.

Online Trading

If you think that buying a flashy new car or an expensive piece of clothing is the only way the ultra-wealthy can maintain their status, you’d be mistaken. A more recent trend involves the wealthy purchasing luxury items and investments through online platforms.

According to a story by Business Insider, since the start of this year “luxury real estate, antiquities, investments, artwork, and even yachts have been transferred to purchase online platforms like Better, Bolivar, Mercado Libre, and Línea.”

These are the emerging platforms used by the wealthy to purchase luxury goods with cryptocurrency. While it’s still not easy to purchase items using bitcoin or other types of digital currency, it’s a way of maintaining an expensive habit that the digital generation is becoming more comfortable with.

Cryptocurrency isn’t the only thing making this type of activity easier, either. Thanks to the growing popularity of online marketplaces and the use of mobile phones, the ultra-wealthy no longer need to be restricted to spending their leisure time by the fireplace. They can now do it from the comfort of their homes.

One of the newest celebrity homes to grace the gossip columns is Paris Hilton’s pad, which was reportedly sold for a $20 million dollar profit. It was purchased using Bitcoin and includes everything from a helipad to a swimming pool.

Even items as seemingly basic as fresh fruit and vegetables are becoming more expensive. A recent report from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the cost of producing food rose by 3% between 2015 and 2016, which is likely due to increased input costs (such as fuel and transport). This increase was attributed mostly to foodstuffs, with fresh fruit and vegetables costing on average 2.6% more than they did the year before. This trend is likely to continue as the world’s wealthiest seek to keep up with the Joneses. The only question is: is this increasing inequality a problem?