On Sunday night, several masked men dressed as police officers broke into Kim Kardashian West’s apartment in Paris and robbed her at gunpoint. She was staying in a private apartment inside of a rental mansion for Paris Fashion Week. (The mansion has a concierge at the front door, who was reportedly handcuffed and forced by the robbers to unlock the apartment.) Once the robbers gained access to her apartment, Kardashian West was tied up and locked in the bathroom while the men made off with $10 million in jewelry.
Kardashian West’s experience sounds like nothing short of a nightmare. (A spokeswoman said Kim has since left Paris and is “badly shaken but physically unharmed.”) But it’s not a nightmare one of the world’s most famous families didn’t see coming. As first noted by BuzzFeed, Kardashian West & Co. have previously discussed the potential dangers of social media on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, after Kylie Jenner’s stalker was revealed during the most recent season. In one episode, the family “pranked” Jenner to teach her a lesson about sharing locations on Snapchat. Sister Khloé Kardashian even suggested they “hold her up at gunpoint” to scare her into being more careful, a joke which feels darkly apropos in hindsight.
Like her sister Kylie, Kim Kardashian West isn’t shy on Snapchat. In the days and hours prior to the robbery, she posted several snaps that appear to have been taken inside the apartment where the incident occurred. (Snapchat stories auto-delete after 24 hours, but when you’re as famous as Kardashian West there are entire fan accounts devoted to saving and reposting them.) And in case Snapchat wasn’t enough, there are Kim’s Instagram, Twitter, and the social accounts of the rest of her family (not to mention the horde of stylists, makeup artists, and Hadids who are constantly with them). What this means is anybody with a cell phone could map out a pretty good picture of where Kardashian West is and what she’s up to, at all times. (Kourtney Kardashian says she puts her phone on airplane mode and will wait to upload snaps until after she’s left a location, but Kardashian West’s Paris posts appear to have been happening in real time.)
So what is the entrepreneur, reality star, and emoji peddler supposed to do now? On a larger and more traumatic scale, what happened to Kardashian West rings back to warnings you’ve probably already heard before from tech-averse parents, friends, or the TSA Twitter account. Don’t share a picture of your boarding pass for that Hawaiian vacation on Facebook unless you want to return and find your house resembling the set of Home Alone. (And wait to Instagram those beach pictures until you get back.) Don’t tweet that your roommates are all gone and you have excitedly kicked off your pants because you have the apartment to yourself for the next 72 hours. Actually, never tweet at all.
But Kardashian West’s brand is doing all of those things … and people love her for it. (And love to hate her for it. Again, all part of the brand.) She and her family have built an empire on sharing. Sharing their lives. Their homes. Their preferred brand of refrigerator for the ideal selfie lighting. (I kid you not.)
But making yourself available to a crowd of adoring fans also means making yourself available to people with the ability and motivation to rob you. The thrill of constant access is accompanied by the danger of passive surveillance. Kim knows this: It’s not like she isn’t already constantly accompanied by a security detail. This robbery was a horrible and unforeseen experience Kardashian West was already trying to prevent.
We don’t know if the robbers in this case got their victim’s location from her Snapchat, or if there was another kind of tip-off. But it’s utterly imaginable, and terrifying. As more and more people adopt the Kardashian model of being, fame, and fabulousness, more and more people will have to juggle the same risks. And if the risks are deemed too much, the fans lose, too: We get to keep up with Kim Kardashian West only because she allows us, through a series of calculated images and video shares, to view her domain. She shouldn’t be chided for or expected to give up being a professional oversharer just because five men with guns decided to violate that space. While Kim, understandably, hasn’t posted anything new since the robbery, when she does come back I can only hope it will be with the same strategic candor in her voice, and diamonds on all her damn fingers.