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    I Don’t Believe It: Why People Fake Travel in Social Media

    Obviously, Instagram has long become a way to make an impression. Instead of real life, it often shows a reality that is polished to a shine and sprinkled with golden powder. The biggest brag is travel.

    Almost everybody goes for little tricks. Some go to, say, Barcelona for a couple of days, and post pictures for a week, all in order to make their vacation look longer. Others stay in a cheap hostel and take pictures in a hotel’s expensive lobby, which is another way to stir up envy. But what if some of the beautiful pictures we see in our feed come from trips that never took place?

    Ways to Trick Followers

    A website called Fake A Vacation was founded in 2017 in Nebraska, it is a photo editing service. The user uploads a picture, selects the desired background, for example, a sandy beach on Maui, stormy waters of Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon in the afternoon sunlight, and receives an edited version of the photo that looks amazingly authentic.

    It might seem a joke, but made-up travel is not such a rare occurrence. In April, TravelPulse website published a remarkable study of the Jet Cost ticket aggregator. It turned out that more than half of the Americans surveyed (4,000 people over 18) would never admit that their trip was a disaster, and 14% made up their luxurious vacations. Moreover, 10% published fake photos on social media as confirmation of their own lies.

    The reason is Instagram, or the pressure that social networks subject on us. Survey participants said they felt they were losers for not being able to afford a real vacation, and wanted to impress others — parents, friends, and co-workers.

    You can make a fake photo on the Fake A Vacation website for $49.99 (or $39.99 if you have a discount), processing will take three working days. The Krome Photos application offers similar functionality. Here you can take a photo from Park Guell in Barcelona, Forbidden City in Beijing or, for example, from Oktoberfest, with a beer in your hand. Photos are edited by professionals. The work takes up to 24 hours and costs $3-12. The website says, ‘Everything is possible’.


    Instagram Celebrities’ Fake Shots

    Celebrities also use fake photos to tell about their travels. Amelia Liana who has over half a million followers on Instagram poses atop Rockefeller Center, against one of the most iconic New York views, but the World Trade Center, one of the tallest buildings in the world, built in 2013, unexpectedly disappeared from the panorama. In another photo, the girl lies on a bed that literally hovers over London, and on the third she is posing in front of Taj Mahal, that has no tourist crowds or scaffolding.  

    Liana confidently replies those charges of forgery from her subscribers: she says she really visited all the places shown in the pictures, and she used Photoshop only to edit photos in accordance with her profile style.

    Another time, Johanna Olsson from Sweden with 528,000 subscribers on Instagram was in the middle of a scandal. In October, she posted a series of photos from a trip to Paris, and some of them were unreliable. Posing on the Seine embankment, the girl seemed to hover above the ground, and in the picture in an outdoor cafe around Johanna’s head there was a noticeable unnatural glow – a sign that the background had been replaced.

    Both girls appeal to the fact that beautiful photos are the fastest way to get followers, and don’t consider their deception wrong.

    Self-exposure As a New Genre

    While careless influencers are justifying their fake photos in front of subscribers and advertisers, some bloggers reveal the secret of their deception in detail and admit that they faked a vacation on social networks just for the sake of thrill. In one of the YouTube videos, a user from Georgia Shila Oliver talks in detail about how she made everyone believe she went to Paris without leaving Atlanta. Among her tricks were pictures allegedly taken on the way to the airport, and an old video from the airport, that had been recorded a few years back by her friend. Subscribers are delighted with the Photoshop prank and now seem to love the girl even more.

    Gabbie Hanna / YouTube

    A similar story is told by Gabby Hannah, though she ‘went’ not to Paris, but to Coachella – the largest music and art festival that takes place every year in California. Hannah lives in Los Angeles – a real paradise for festival fans – but does not like noisy parties. At some point, she thought that many go to festivals just to take more pictures for Instagram, and decided to do the same, but without visiting the festival. She photographed her friend’s house as if it were an apartment rented on Airbnb, printed festival bracelets, put on bright make-up, and created the perfect festival look. The pictures’ background was edited by a friend who is a Photoshop guru. The photos from the festival brought Hannah 500 thousand likes, and more than 3.7 million people watched her self-exposing video.

    With her self-exposure, the girl decided to show the trick that social networks play with us. We believe everything that we see (if it looks authentic), and this is a mistake. Maybe it’s time to admit: it’s all fake.

    Irina Kostareva

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