Graphic designer Zilla van den Born fooled the world by creating her dream vacation on social media
Ever got the feeling that a friend's Facebook life is suspiciously incredible? Ever been jealous of yet another post of someone with their gorgeous partner on a gorgeous island having a fucking gorgeous time? Of course you have. But are the lives we see on Facebook all they're purporting to be?
25-year old Dutch graphic designer Zilla van den Born decided to call bullshit on the way people manipulate reality on social media. She told her friends and family that she was going away for over a month to see Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Her family dropped her off at the airport, she waited for them to leave and then headed straight back to her flat in Amsterdam.
Zilla used Photoshop to "create" her holiday and kept everyone she knew updated with Facebook posts and even Skype calls. She wanted to highlight how Facebook statuses, messages and photographs do not always represent real life, and how easily they can be manipulated.
We caught up with her to discuss the project and what reality even means in the digital age.
Did you actually go anywhere, or was this all a complete lie? Did you tell anyone what you were doing or was it a complete secret?
Zilla van den Born: I stayed home in Amsterdam and tricked everyone into believing in a false reality. Only my boyfriend knew my secret, because we live together (I eventhought about excluding him, but didn’t have the money to book a hotel for so long). If I had to go outside I wore an undercover outfit to make myself unrecognisable.
Do you think we all fake our own lives to some extent?
Zilla van den Born: Yes, because we want to compete with the other images we see online of others. Everyone can be the designer of their own digital identity and of course we want to keep up with the rest. And this could bring some pressure. We all know how it is scrolling through our timeline on Facebook, feeling jealous of the apparently awesome lives others live comparing to yours. But we tend to forget that people filter what they show on social media and often use filters to make their images more beautiful. Together we create some sort of ideal online world with which reality can no longer meet. I want remind people that we have to be careful in what we believe regarding images on social media.
Have you heard of Rich Kids of Instagram? Was this an inspiration in any way?
Zilla van den Born: No I hadn't but this is indeed an extreme version of wanting to outdo others and showing how awesome your own life is.
Do you think it’s a negative thing that we constantly publish and document our own lives? Are we becoming more and more self-obsessed?
Zilla van den Born: Yes, I think on the internet it is only about highlights, everything else is not included or not worth mentioning. You are who you say you are and it is possible to create your own ideal image of you. We shouldn’t be so obsessed with this online identity – we should live for the here and now. In real life you get to know much more about someone through interaction and body language.
Would you like to have the life that you created?
Zilla van den Born: Spending my time on a beautiful island in Asia? Sure, of course! After my graduation project I actually really went to see Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. It was an amazing journey, so much better than only experiencing those landscapes from behind my computer.
Obviously people aren’t photoshopping themselves into tropical places, but do you think a culture of lying exists on social media - a desire to distort reality?
Zilla van den Born: With photos there is a constant battle going on between the two photographic considerations: showing the photographed object as beautiful as possible and telling the truth. What a picture finally really shows is never the exact situation as it really was, it is a flavoured version of the truth!