If you’ve ever spent a rainy evening thumbing through your Facebook newsfeed glaring with scarcely controllable envy at the seemingly endless torrent of pictures posted by unbearably smug friends who are backpacking through some country with scenes so vibrant you wonder if the saturation setting on your screen is faulty, relax.
It could all be a backpack of lies.
For five weeks Dutch student Zilla van den Born subjected her Facebook friends to the above, claiming to be travelling around South East Asia, when in reality she had never left her home city of Amsterdam. She went to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate the illusion, which was fed to her friends and family alike. The only person who knew the truth was her boyfriend.
During her 42 day ‘break’ she did all the things you would expect of someone in her position.
She posted pictures of herself eating exotic food in Asian restaurants – it was just that the restaurants happened to be in Amsterdam.
She posted pictures of herself sitting next to a Buddhist monk in a temple – it was just that the temple and monk happened to be in Amsterdam.
She posted pictures of herself in turquoise water snorkelling – it was just that the water happened to be the pool at her apartment block in Amsterdam. And superimposing the fish was just a standard Photoshop job.
Zilla even redecorated her own bedroom to make it look like an Oriental hotel room so that she could have Skype conversations with her family – at random times in the night, of course – without raising suspicion.
Bending reality on Facebook is hardly unusual – in fact it’s turning into something of a life skill – but Zilla’s efforts seem to have taken things to a whole new level.
The reasons behind her actions, however, are noble: it was all part of a university project, in which she wanted to show how Facebook activity is not necessarily reflective of real life.
Speaking to media in her home country, she said: “I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media, and that we create an online world which reality can no longer meet.
“My goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality. Everybody knows that pictures of models are manipulated. But we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives.”
If you’d still rather do a real gap year and leave the uni projects at uni, that’s cool too.