A liar, a scammer, or a social experimenter? You decide.
Being a huge believer in the idea that not everything is what it seems on social media, me and my friend decided to try a little experiment just to test this theory out. Mostly because we just felt like stirring the pot for our own amusement, and a little because we wanted to see: would people really believe it? Could we really sell this lie? If we could do this so easily, how many people do this all the time?
It was simple. Together, we would post pictures to our Instagram and snapchat pretending to be in NYC (just for the day, because a scam like this can only go so far). Living in Toronto, a city urban enough to pass for NYC with the right lighting and a trick of the camera, it seemed completely do-able. Here’s what happened:
We got together for brunch, starting our long day of fraudulence off right with a good meal. This way it would look like we were arriving in Manhattan, and ready to hit up a trendy brunch spot for some good eats. We planned and schemed together. How were we going to orchestrate this? I decided that I would post a couple of pictures, being vague about the exact location as well as post a picture of brunch to my Instagram story. My friend, less bold and brave than me, decided she was just going to post to her story. We have some mutual followers who would both see our stories and posts, and we knew that working together we could pull this off. Who would question it if we were both posting, right? I panicked, blurring out the table background on my Instagram story, for fear that someone might recognize the grain of wood and trace it back to the tables of the Toronto restaurant we were at. Better to be safe than look stupid.
By the afternoon, the stories were posted and the views started rolling in. People were starting to see that we were “in NYC.” We had expected a few curious friends might message us after seeing our stories, just to ask “what the heck?” or “really, you’re in New York?” But much to our relief no one did. People just kind of accepted it. We took pride in knowing that we had constructed a lie so subtle and believable that it wasn’t even worth questioning. Of course we were in NYC for a day out of the long weekend, people do this all the time! But with that relief came a bit of anxiety: do people KNOW we’re lying and just think we’re silly. Is that why no one is saying anything? I wondered, but ultimately realized that when someone else posts pictures I don’t really question them or dissect them with a fine tooth comb. Why would they dissect mine? Who cares?
Around 8pm, the likes from the pictures I posted (one of which wasn’t even mine, I stole it from someone else’s Instagram) began to slow down and our stories maxed out on views.
Why did we really do this? Aside from the social experiment aspect, my friend wanted to make a sure a very specific person would see that she was in NYC to prove a point. They never saw. I, on the other hand, wanted to seem worldly. Like a woman on the move. I wanted people to think (just for a day) that my life is way cooler than it actually is, and what better way to do that then post pictures of a vacation that never actually happened.
Truly, our plan almost went off without a hitch. I thought we were in the clear, until the next day at Easter dinner when my cousin and his girlfriend (who had seen my posts) came over and asked “So, how was NYC?” I guess I didn’t really think through all the possible angles. My parents both looked at each other across the table, mystified. “What? NYC?” I had to then quickly explain that it was just a social experiment I was doing for an article. We all shrugged it off, and dove into our potatoes and lamb.
I’m not really sure that the results of this social experiment were overwhelming, but we definitely had lots of fun doing it. No, we weren’t in NYC for the day. But the two of us plan to go around the end of June anyways, so really this is just advanced foreshadowing. To everyone who might read this and genuinely thought we were in NYC, I’m sorry.
Word to the wise: don’t believe everything you see on social media.