If there’s one thing Instagram is good for, it’s establishing intense feelings of FOMO. Whether it be a beautiful brunch, a sunny day at the beach or a newly-renovated home, we could spend hours scrolling through the app wondering why our lives will never be as fabulous as those of the friends and celebrities we follow.
Here’s the deal though: their lives aren’t like that. Not a single one of them. If you scrolled through your own profile, you wouldn’t find pictures of yourself paying bills, cleaning the kitchen and commuting to work. You would see the very best version of your life filtered to perfection, just like everybody else.
To illustrate just how fake Instagram can be, a travel blogger convinced her followers that she took a trip to Disneyland for her 22nd birthday. Except she didn’t. In fact, she’s actually a decade older than she claimed to be and never left the comfort of her bed.
Earlier this month, U.K.-based traveller Carolyn Stritch (a.k.a. The Slow Traveler) posted that she was travelling to California by herself for her 22nd birthday to see Disneyland for the first time and “Instagram the hell out of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.”
Tomorrow, I’m going to be 22! I’m treating myself with a trip to Californ-I-ay: I’m off to Disneyland to Instagram the hell out of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I’ll be putting myself to bed nice and early tonight: I’m flying tomorrow and coming home Monday (need a magic carpet, not an aeroplane). I’ll be by myself, but so what? It’ll be my very own fairytale. Human possibilities vastly exceed our imagination!
The next day, she delivered with a filtered photo of what appeared to be herself standing in front of the famous castle with no one else around (unusual for a Disney park, even in the early morning).
“I’ve taken myself off to California,” the caption reads, “There I am in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – my crazy, self-indulgent 22nd birthday present to myself. Tomorrow I’ll be back home and it’ll be like it never happened.” That’s probably because it didn’t.
I’ve taken myself off to California. There I am in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – my crazy, self-indulgent 22nd birthday present to myself. Tomorrow I’ll be back home and it’ll be like it never even happened! I keep saying to myself: it’s kind of fun to do the impossible. Life is what you make it!
A day later, Stritch posted again on Instagram, this time a video of some edits she made to both the pictures from the previous two days. In the caption, she talked about not feeling “entirely myself” and promised a blog post the next day detailing her trip. Followers got their blog post alright, but it wasn’t at all what people were expecting.
I’m not feeling entirely myself after that trip. Strange. Tomorrow I’ll share a blog post telling you all about it. It’s not every day you get to say: “I’m going to be 22 and I’m taking my self to Disneyland.” Well, back to reality. Hard to believe that just yesterday I was standing alone outside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. But I’ll always have The Image.
In her blog post, entitled, “Why I Hacked My Own Instagram Account,” Stritch recounted how she used edited images to effectively make it look like she was 22 and traveling to Disneyland. The blogger is actually 32 and described how she used FaceApp to make herself look younger in the first post. She said that while this image may be her “perfect self,” it is in no way reality.
“I came up with a story,” she writes in her blog post, “My FaceApped perfect self, who is ten years younger than I am, flies off to Disneyland for the day, and somehow manages to photograph herself all alone in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I manipulated images, captioned them with a fictional narrative, and presented them as real life.”
Carolyn’s social experiment was based off a lesson she learned while working on her photography degree: “question everything, especially [your] own work.” She said stumbling across the face-changing app got her thinking about what level of photo-editing is acceptable and at what point it crosses the line into dishonesty.
“Instagram is really about escapism, the aspirational, the inspirational. So I try to get these things into the pictures I post,” Stritch writes, “Nobody wants to see me in my pyjamas, with my explosive morning hair, hunched over my laptop on the sofa. That’s how I spend most of my days. You want to see my books, my windows, my travel photography, same as I want to see the best bits of your daily lives.”
This initial experiment is part of an ongoing project of Carolyn’s into where exactly the line between responsible editing and fake photos lies. As part of her project, she has also set up a donation page for the charity Young Minds Trust, which specializes in youth mental health.
So the next time you’re lusting after someone’s apartment or their piña colada, just remember, their real life definitely isn’t as cool as it looks on Instagram.