Irene Ly, a freshman majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
Have you ever dropped off family members or friends at the airport and then envied them as they post pictures of their travels on Facebook and Instagram?
Now, imagine those people had been fooling you all along, without having ever left home. That’s exactly what 25-year-old Dutch student Zilla van den Born did this summer.
For 42 days, van den Born hid in her apartment and convinced her loved ones she was having the time of her life traveling through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos by photoshopping images of exotic food and tourist attractions. She even Skyped with her parents from her living room under Christmas lights and a Thai umbrella and sent texts in the middle of the night.
Sound like a twisted joke by someone with too much time on her hands? Actually, van den Born, who studies graphic design, conjured up the whole ruse as her university graduation project. Her goal was to “prove how common and easy it is to distort reality,” and did it to “show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media.”
It’s a bold and extreme way of communicating a very true message: If there’s one thing social media is good at, it’s filtering out the bad and only showing the glamorous.
College students are some of the most active on social media, and GW students are particularly prone to bragging about their unique experiences. As a freshman, I’ve only been on campus a few weeks and am already inundated with social media posts ending in #OnlyatGW. It’s a central part of the University’s marketing campaign, too.
While using this hashtag is certainly trendy, it doesn’t paint a full picture of GW. Just as van den Born was able to manipulate reality and fool everyone using nothing but Photoshop and some creativity, #OnlyatGW paints a picture that is one-sided, has been removed of all its flaws and seems too good to be true.
I’m not trying to bash the pride students have for our school, but rather emphasize just how easy it is for us to use social media to twist reality.
By only showing our lives in a positive light, we fail to reveal the whole truth. Life at GW is occasionally thrilling, sure, but that doesn’t mean the rest of our time here is not still pretty darn ordinary or unexciting at times.
Reality may not be as exciting as social media makes it seem, but it can still be pretty great, and can sometimes give us enjoyment social media simply cannot capture.