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Fake It Until You Make It

October 1, 2014

Backpacking through foreign lands has long been a right-of-passage for graduates. But instead of doing that, a Dutch student pretended like she did…to see if anyone could tell.

Student Fakes TripFacebook, Instagram, and other social media websites are convenient and popular ways for travelers to keep family and friends abreast of their adventures. So much so that Amsterdam student Zilla Van Den Born decided to see if she could fake a trip to Asia, but make everyone she knew really think that she was trekking around the other side of the planet. So, after waving goodbye to her loved ones at Schiphol Airport, the 25 year-old graphic design major snuck back to her apartment in Amsterdam.

Van Den Born fired up Photoshop and began doctoring photos of herself in front of various tourist sites overseas. Her ruse also involved chatting with her parents on a Skype video feed. To convince them that she was calling from Thailand, she created a fake backdrop with some Christmas lights and other decorations. Along with cutting and pasting images of herself into pictures of tropical beaches, Van Den Born faked a snorkeling trip by photographing herself in scuba gear in her apartment building’s swimming pool.

To add further credibility to her trickery, Van Den Born visited a local tanning salon to give herself a healthy glow. She even sent her relatives Asian postcards—and none of them noticed the Amsterdam postmark. With the help of her boyfriend, Van Den Born managed to convince everyone that she had really spent 42 days backpacking around Asia. She later revealed the truth to her friends and family while filming their reactions.

So why did she do this? It was all part of a school project. As Van Den Born later told the press, “My goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality. I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media.”

Zilla Van Den Born has landed a publishing deal to write about her project. The book will be called, Oh God, Zilla! (Get it?) Click through for more before and after images.

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