Unexpected They were used to getting a lot of attention from their photos. After all, they were pretty well-known and had a large online pre...

Couple's Selfie Goes Viral, Then They Realize Something's Off Couple's Selfie Goes Viral, Then They Realize Something's Off

Couple's Selfie Goes Viral, Then They Realize Something's Off

Couple's Selfie Goes Viral, Then They Realize Something's Off

Unexpected

They were used to getting a lot of attention from their photos. After all, they were pretty well-known and had a large online presence. This particular picture was different, though.

Instagram/ohwendyoh

It wasn’t just a big hit among their fans and followers. It spread like wildfire -- even out to news publications around the world! But they were still puzzled as to the reason why. They read the comments, hoping to understand why it was so popular. And then they saw it — it was right in their faces, but they hadn’t realized it until now. 

It All Began In 2006

But Wendy Joseph and Dan Hennessey weren’t always such big Internet stars. In fact, they remember a time when social media was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

Funnily enough, though, it played a big part in how their love and success story got started -- and it set everything in motion for their relationship to become an online sensation. It all began in 2006 when both of them were young college students. Dan was looking to expand his circle of friends, but they didn’t know each other. Little did the pair know that they were about to cross paths in the most unusual of ways.

Early Facebook Adopter

Dan was an 18-year-old sophomore studying Exercise Science. Wendy, at the time only 17 years old, had just graduated from high school and wanted to pursue a career in public healthcare. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

Dan was an outgoing kid who loved partying, socializing and meeting new people. It didn’t take long for him to learn about the new social media platform that everyone was talking about: Facebook. At the time, Mark Zuckerberg's groundbreaking new social network was in its infancy and was only used by college students — mainly for meeting new people and for dating. That's where he first encountered Wendy.

Connecting Online

Dan used Facebook to meet new people and expand his circle of friends. One day, he came upon a girl named Daphne, with whom he shared a few mutual friends. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

He sent her a personal message, but she didn’t reply. Undeterred, he started going through her friends' list. That’s when he saw Wendy’s profile. Smitten with her photos, he decided to message her too. But, at the time, Wendy, with good reason, was very wary of strangers who reached out to her on the Internet. Instead of replying, she told her friend Daphne about it — who had some things to say about Dan.

A Persistent Guy

Daphne told Wendy that Dan had messaged her too, so Wendy decided that she wasn’t going to reply to him. Weeks went by, and he reached out again. Intrigued, she clicked on his profile to find out a bit more about him. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

There, she discovered that he knew people she went to high school with. Feeling more secure now that she knew that they had some friends in common, she messaged back, and an online friendship was born. But Dan wanted to meet Wendy in person, so he invited her and her friends to a party at his apartment. There was only one problem...

Unprepared

Dan hadn’t actually planned a party because he didn’t think Wendy would accept his invitation. When she did, he scrambled to notify his friends and put everything together — and he managed to pull it off, even at such short notice. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

The fateful night of the party arrived, and the pair met for the first time and hit it off instantly. They chatted and danced together all night. When all the other guests were gone, Wendy was still there hanging out with Dan. There was obvious chemistry between the two… but that wasn't enough to mean that things would work out.

Closer

Wendy had just come out of her first long-term relationship, so she was wary of making another connection and getting her heart broken again. Dan was really enjoying single life at college and the party lifestyle that came with it, so they decided to stay friends. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

But there was no denying that there was something there, no matter how hard they tried to ignore it. They messaged each other every day and became really close. Six months later they realized that they might be ready to try things out as a couple. But they had no idea that trouble was looming down the road.

Doubts Creep In

With her love life blossoming, or so she thought, and basking in that special feeling of an exciting new love, Wendy began to focus her attention on some of the other areas of her life that she'd been neglecting.

YouTube/Wendy Joseph

She wholeheartedly threw herself into her studies while Dan continued to socialize and party with his friends on campus. By now, years had gone by but nothing had changed -- she was still no closer to getting her Master’s degree and moving forward with her life. That’s when she saw the message in Dan’s inbox that made her head spin. And it changed everything.

Differences

What had started as a small seed of doubt in Wendy’s mind only grew the longer they were together. With Dan’s Facebook profile still very much active, Wendy watched his ever-growing friends list with suspicion in her heart. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

She knew that Facebook was how Dan had found her -- what was to say he wasn't chatting to other girls on the side? Shortly after she began declining invitations to parties because she had to study, he began going out without her. He was meeting new people every weekend while she sat at home. It was becoming very clear that although he had matured, Dan still loved to party.

Warning Bells

The message had seemed innocent enough, but as the day wore on, Wendy felt herself becoming consumed by it. Dan had forgotten to log out of his Facebook account and had left his inbox open. 

YouTube/Wendy Joseph

Wendy was going over her coursework when she saw the notification come through on their shared computer. She hesitated, knowing it was wrong. If she didn't trust Dan, what was their relationship built on? But soon, her curiosity got the better of her. She was one click away from knowing what was really going on with Dan. Her heart sank when she saw it was from one of his many female friends.

She Couldn't Help Herself

Wendy just couldn’t help herself. After she had done it once it became that much easier. Fuelled by insecurities and doubt, she found herself going through all of Dan’s private Facebook messages. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

Although she couldn’t find any incriminating evidence against him, she did find a lot of messages from other women. To make matters worse, they were all successful, young, and had finished their studies. And they all knew Dan from the parties he had gone to without her. She compared herself to them and felt like a failure. And it wasn’t long before her fears seeped into every aspect of her life.

A Little Voice

But what could Wendy do about it? Being inexperienced at love and life in general, she felt like her relationship was spiraling way beyond her control. Normal everyday bickers about small things quickly became giant arguments, fuelled by Wendy’s insecurities and Dan’s refusal to compromise. 

YouTube/Wendy Joseph

She should set some time aside from her studying to spend some time with him. He should stay at home with her instead of going out without her. And the arguments always came circling back to one question -- what if he met someone new? Then, a little voice inside her asked: what if he already had?

The Photograph Explodes

And so it continued. Wendy knew something had to give. Fast-forward to the present – and that notorious photograph that became such a hot topic. Wendy’s eyes widened as she logged in and saw the “likes” creep past the 60,000 mark. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

Comments flooded in as the photo was shared thousands of times. Friends, family, and the general public were determined to have their say. News stations were banging on the door to get exclusive interviews, and the phone rang day and night. Wendy was overwhelmed by the response. But why had this photograph that Wendy had posted on Facebook sparked worldwide controversy?

The Right Decision

When Wendy had decided to break it off with Dan all those years ago, it had seemed like the logical choice at the time. In fact, to her, it was the only choice. She was beginning to feel more and more unhappy, and he refused to give her the validation she needed. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

They had been so young when they had met. She knew that she had changed a lot in those seven years. Of course, she had felt heartbroken at the time. Looking at the photograph again, she had no regrets. She was sure that it had been the best decision she’d ever made. 

Breaking It Off

Even though it had broken her heart to think of a life without Dan, she knew she had to put her head down and pursue her own interests. She didn't like the person she had become when she was with Dan -- insecure and needy. She needed to find out what kind of woman she could become. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

So she renewed her efforts, and without the constant distractions and worries that came with her relationship, she went on to eventually receive her Master’s Degree in Public Administration. She had done it for her own good. But staying away from Dan had proved much harder than she could ever have imagined

Never Giving Up

But there was one thing she hadn't considered. Dan hadn’t been happy with Wendy's decision -- far, far from it. He wasn't ready to give up the love of his life. He understood what part he had played in their breakup. He had taken her for granted. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

But now, he missed her terribly. The only thing he could do was message her every day for the entire year and a half that they were separated, so that's what he did. Just like in the beginning, he hoped that his persistence would pay off once again. But Wendy had finally found her true calling.

Finding Themselves

Though it was an extremely difficult time for him, Dan eventually realized that Wendy was right. After she achieved her dream of completing her Master's Degree, Wendy decided to set her sights even higher. With social media on the rise, she saw an opportunity. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

She started her own YouTube channel, called "Wendy’s Curls", where she posted beauty tutorials and gave hairstyling advice for girls with unmanageable and naturally curly hair. She shrugged off her old look and began to embrace her own natural beauty, and her followers loved it. But then, fate decided to intervene in her life once more.

Rekindling Their Feelings

But it was inevitable that Dan and Wendy would meet again. One day, the couple bumped into each other after months of not seeing one another. Dan was amazed at the transformation that Wendy had made.

Instagram/ohwendyoh

She had embraced her natural beauty and just wasn't the same girl he knew from all those years ago -- in fact, she had thrived while they were apart! The strong, beautiful, and confident woman he saw before him made him fall in love with her all over again. But would she take him back? Naturally, Wendy had her reservations. Things needed to change.

Finding Themselves

Wendy had decided to break up with Dan so that they could each find themselves and discover who they were as individuals. Their relationship had stagnated. They had just been too young. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

Dan hadn't been mature enough, and Wendy wasn't secure enough in herself to be able to handle it -- although that kind of security would only come with age. Though it was an incredibly difficult time, she knew it had been the right thing to do. During that time spent alone, Wendy had become a YouTube star with thousands of followers, and she had her confidence back!

Had He Changed?

Had Dan changed so much in such a short time? Had he finally grown out of his party-going lifestyle? And was he ready to settle down? Wendy thought so. He’d been relentless in trying to convince her that they were meant to be together, and he made good on his promises. 

YouTube/Wendy Joseph

Surprisingly, he hadn’t dated anybody else during the time they had been apart. He was only interested in Wendy. She knew that he’d proven that he was in it for the long haul, so she decided to give him another chance. Little did she know, their antics were about to go viral.

Life In The Spotlight

Dan started appearing in Wendy’s videos and they discovered that fans really liked seeing them together. So they began posting videos giving relationship advice and talking about their life as a couple. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

Dan also created an Instagram account, which quickly amassed over 25,000 followers — although not nearly as many as Wendy’s 105,000. Then, in December 2017, they celebrated their 10-year anniversary. But they had no idea this milestone would become a viral sensation.

The Throwback

To mark the occasion, Wendy posted a side-by-side picture on her Facebook and Instagram pages. On the left was a picture of them when they first started dating, on the right was a current photo. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

Though it may seem like a normal thing to do, the post exploded. In a matter of weeks, it got over 60,000 likes. It got picked up by major news outlets like The Independent, The Sun, and The Daily Mail. But why had this photo gone so viral?

The Picture Of Youth

Seeing the photos side by side, people couldn’t believe how different Wendy and Dan looked — especially since they appeared much younger now than ten years ago. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

“Do you both age in reverse?” asked one commenter. “What fountain of youth are you drinking from?” said another. But, it turns out, there’s a reason for such transformation. They go on to explain exactly how they managed to become so healthy and happy...

Fitness Enthusiasts

Even before they met, both Wendy and Dan had a strong interest in health and fitness, which was reflected in their choice of careers. So it’s no surprise that both of them worked hard on their bodies. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

When Wendy’s YouTube channel hit it big, they realized going into the fitness space was a natural progression for them. They started posting workout tutorials and nutrition advice. But they had a vision that was bigger than a YouTube channel

Making It Into A Business

Together, Dan and Wendy founded True4You Fitness, a fitness coaching company where they give nutrition and exercise advice to their clients. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

They also opened a wellness-focused YouTube channel, though once in a while they also talk about their life and relationship. And, in September 2016, they made a huge announcement.

Paris Proposal

In September 2016, Wendy and Dan were on holiday in Paris with a couple of friends. But, the day they visited the Eiffel Tower, Dan had a surprise prepared for Wendy. 

YouTube/Wendy Joseph

With his friend recording everything, he got down on one knee, pulled out a diamond ring and asked Wendy to marry him!

The Next Phase In Their Lives

Naturally, Wendy said yes. She was so excited that she even forgot which hand the ring should go on. It was like a fairy tale. But the couple’s life was about to become even more magical. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

After their trip to Paris and their engagement, Wendy and Dan were not done traveling and living their dream life. They were able to save enough money to do something they’d always wanted: travel abroad for months at a time.

Wanderlust

Dan and Wendy managed to earn enough money from their fitness venture to travel to Thailand, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and many other places. 

Instagram/ohwendyoh

After returning to the U.S., they went on a domestic trip to Las Vegas and are now busy planning their wedding. But what else does this power-couple have planned?

A Big Move

Although both Dan and Wendy are originally from New Jersey, they decided to move to the warmer climate of San Diego, California. 

Instagram/shotsofhennessey

With the stunning weather, sun, and surf, this could be the perfect place for the couple to settle down. What else does this mesmerizing pair have on the cards?

Strength To Strength

The couple’s Instagram and YouTube fitness pages have grown from strength to strength, recently branching out to include a website. Their main goal is to help people from all over the globe reach their fitness goals and transform their lives -- just as they did! After all, the couple who trains together stays together.

Wendy and Dan’s story of love and success seems like a dream come true from the outside. But sometimes, if someone's life appears to be too good to be true on social media, it probably is...

Trust

She took a closer look at the photo. Now that it was pointed out to her, she couldn’t believe it.

Instagram/zillavandenbor

She had been deceived for over a month, and she couldn’t fathom what they were telling her. But why would her daughter do this? And then the truth of it all sank in.

Portraits

Zilla van den Born from the Netherlands had entered the world of modeling at the tender age of 16, and soon, she was enamored by the way her photographs were manipulated to portray her in a different light. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

The photo editors would work tirelessly to ensure that her shoots were picture-perfect, but she didn’t always agree with their modifications.

Adventure

Zilla was 25 years old when she decided to pursue a career in the arts, and she enrolled at the Art Academy of Utrecht for a graphic design course. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

Her friends and family were aware of her dreams to travel the world one day, so they were unsurprised when she announced a solo 5-week trip to South-East Asia. Little did they know, Zilla’s photographs of her trip were about to stir major controversy.

Envy

Laden with her heavy luggage, Zilla arrived at the airport in April 2014 and promptly posted a photograph of her sendoff on Facebook. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

Soon, comments flooded in — all her friends and followers were awed and a little envious that the young girl was about to set off on the adventure of a lifetime. But nobody could have dreamed what was really going on in Zilla’s life.

Idyllic

Zilla continued to post photographs of her adventures in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia over the next 5 weeks. She posted snapshots of herself posing in the sapphire blue waters of Asia’s idyllic beaches, silhouetted against the iconic skyline of Bangkok, as well as enjoying local cuisine. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

She had no idea how much backlash she would receive for these seemingly innocent photographs later on.

Land Of Smiles

Zilla added photograph after photograph on social media, to the envy of her hundreds of Facebook friends. In one album, titled “Thailand, the land of smiles,” she even poses with a Buddhist monk in the beautiful temples of Bangkok. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

Her rabid followers waited with bated breath for each snapshot of the young woman’s seemingly perfect life — and she never disappointed them.

Living The Dream

She partied with many new friends she had made, went scuba diving in the crystal waters of the Thai island of Phuket with exotic marine life, and even posed with the local children. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

On the surface, it appeared as though she was living everyone’s wildest dreams and adventures. But this was far from the truth.

Facade

Zilla, despite her busy days of adventure, managed to keep her loved ones updated and would video call them on Skype from her various hotel rooms throughout her stay. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

And she did an excellent job of maintaining the facade she had built so elaborately around herself. He parents never suspected that anything was amiss with their daughter.

Evidence

When Zilla’s 5-week vacation drew to a close, her parents were eager for her to come home and show them all the photographs of her trip. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

They were proud of their daughter and happy that she had been brave enough to embark on such a journey alone in a foreign country. But when Zilla revealed what she had really been doing during her vacation, everyone was left reeling.

Elaborate Ruse

She had set up some exotic props in her apartment when she staged the Skype calls to her family, and all it took to make everyone believe that she was in Asia were a few paper umbrellas! 

Vimeo/zvdborn

When her loved ones had dropped her at the airport, she had disguised herself and returned to her Amsterdam apartment.

Painstaking Details

You see, instead of going on a 5-week vacation, Zilla had decided to perform an elaborate social experiment. She had never left her apartment in Amsterdam for the entire 5 weeks.

Instagram/zillavandenborn

Instead carefully photoshopping herself into believable scenes from her imaginary vacation. She revealed how she had managed to pull off such an extraordinary feat in a video on Vimeo.

Flawless

Zilla had even studied Asian cooking videos and had recreated them in her own kitchen to give her posts an authentic feel. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

She had also successfully faked the shots of her snorkeling in her very own backyard swimming pool and then edited the exotic fish into the shots with Photoshop. The hoax was risky, and she had been careful to make sure there were no flaws in her plan.

“Friends”

The most difficult aspect of the 5-week long operation was convincing people of the fake friendships she had made on her travels.

Instagram/zillavandenborn

Zilla even went as far as creating fictional identities for each of them and staging Facebook conversations to make her experience more believable to her friends and followers.

Why?

Zilla spent weeks creating her elaborate ruse and had successfully fooled everyone. She transformed her everyday surroundings to create the illusion that she was off on an incredible adventure. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

The entire process was painstaking, and she had told nobody about her secret. But her revelation baffled her friends and family. Why would she go to such an effort?

Social Experiment

The experiment was a project for her university course. Zilla had set out to prove that social media is a powerful tool that many use to distort other people’s perceptions of their lives.

Instagram/zillavandenborn

She wanted to prove how easy it is to portray yourself in a specific way on social media.

Intentions

“…it’s not only the models in the magazines, but also our friends on social media who contribute to this fake reality. We should be more careful about what we believe... 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

"... and ask ourselves why a photo is made — how and by whom and with which intention,” Zilla said. And her message is a powerful one.

An Ideal World

“I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media – we create an ideal world online, which reality can no longer meet,” Zilla said in an interview. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

“My goal was to prove how common and easy it is for people to distort reality. Everyone knows that pictures of models are manipulated, but we often overlook the fact that we manipulate reality also in our own lives.”

Staged

But not all of Zilla’s photographs were edited. For the shot where she poses with a Buddhist Monk, she simply went to the nearest temple. 

Instagram/zillavandenborn

It is ironic that the photos of the Buddhist temple were the most authentic posts Zilla created during her 5-week social experiment. But, understandably, Zilla’s elaborate hoax has received mixed reactions from her friends and family.

Backlash

Some of Zilla’s Facebook fans praised her skills and took her message to heart, while others felt hurt and betrayed by her lies — her loved ones were affected most of all.

Instagram/zillavandenborn

“If I had the chance to do it again, I don’t think I would,” Zilla confessed to BuzzFeed. “I really underestimated the impact of the project on myself and the people around me.”

Powerful Message

What do you think about Zilla’s social experiment? Should we always believe that our friends are living idyllic lives because of what they post on social media? 

Vimeo/zvdborn

Is it right to feel unsatisfied with our own lives because of the distorted reality we are shown every day in the media and in our own Facebook feeds? Think carefully next time you feel a twinge of envy — seeing is not always believing.

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