They were used to getting a lot of attention from their photos. After all, they were pretty well known. This picture was different, though. It was not just a big hit among their followers; it spread out to news publications around the world. But they were 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 had not realized it until now.
This couple seems like an ordinary one to us all. They were together for years before a hiccup placed them apart. However, there is more to this story than meets the eye and it was because of one photo that was placed on social media that changed everything, especially for the couple. They did not understand at first why their photo garnered so much attention, they did not think themselves more unique than others but it was the world that saw something that even these two did not see. This couple’s story is much more than love, it is about self-exploration and understanding. Those who saw their photos helped them see something entirely new. It is amazing what social media can do these days, it can really change a way of thinking (for better or for the worse). This couple was about to go on one wild ride thanks to some comments on their photo that went totally viral.
But Wendy Joseph and Dan Hennessey were not always such big Internet stars. In fact, they remember a time when social media was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. Funnily enough, though, it played a big part in how their love and success story got started. It all began in 2006 when both of them were young college students. They did not know each other, but they were about to cross paths in the most unusual of ways.
Facebook was not launched to the public was back in 2006, so this was a time when we all used to text one another and think that was the most advanced form of communication. We did not imagine that there would be social media platforms where you share anything and everything and be completely okay with it. MySpace was the only one really around at the time and it was slowly going away to make room for we now know as Facebook. Do you remember the times when we would call each other and meet up rather than just text or DM all day? Times sure have changed but it is not all negative – social media does great things for people; brings them together, helps people collect money for those in need, and shares stories that help us all in understanding the world and hearing what we were sure not going to if the internet and social media were not around. Wendy and Dan needed this advance to make their story even happen.
Dan was an 18-year-old sophomore studying Exercise Science. Wendy, at the time was only 17 years old, had just graduated from high school and wanted to pursue a career in public healthcare. Dan was an outgoing kid who loved partying and meeting new people, and it did not take long for him to learn about Facebook.
At the time, the social network was in its infancy and only used by college students — mainly for dating. That is where he encountered Wendy. Facebook, when it first started was for college kids to meet their fellow college students – the first social network!
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 had mutual friends. He sent her a message, but she did not reply. Undeterred, he started going through her friends list.
That is when he saw Wendy’s profile. Smitten with her photos, he messaged her too. But, at the time, Wendy was wary of strangers on the Internet. Instead of replying, she told her friend Daphne about it — who had some things to say about Dan. You know how girls are – they always talk to one another about potential suitors!
Daphne told Wendy that Dan had messaged her too, so Wendy decided she was not going to reply to him. Weeks went by, and he reached out again. Intrigued, she went on his profile and discovered he knew people she went to high school with. So she messaged back, and an online friendship was born.
But Dan wanted to meet Wendy in person, he wanted to see the face of the girl he loved speaking to all the time, so he invited her and her friends to a party at his apartment to try and break the ice. There was only one problem…
Dan had not actually planned a party because he did not think Wendy would accept his invitation. When she did, he scrambled to notify his friends and put everything together — and he pulled it off much to his surprise and luck. The night of the party arrived, and the pair hit it off instantly.
They chatted and danced together all night. When all the guests were gone, Wendy was still there hanging out with Dan. There was obvious chemistry between the two… but that did not mean that things would work out. There were obstacles for these two…
Wendy had just come out of a long-term relationship and Dan was really enjoying his party lifestyle, so they decided to stay friends. They became really close, and six months later they realized they were ready to try things out as a couple.
But they had no idea that trouble was looming down the road. It is always risky for friends to become more than that, as it could mean that if things do not work out then they also run the risk of ruining their friendship, something that they did not want to do. However, they knew they wanted to be together.
With her love life blossoming, or so she thought, Wendy began to focus her attention on other areas of her life. She threw herself into her studies while Dan continued to socialize and party with friends. By now years had gone by, but she was still no closer to getting her Master’s degree.
That is when she saw the message in Dan’s inbox that made her head spin. It was already hard for her to be in school for so long and struggle as much as she did, but to see the message in the inbox at such a bad time in her life made it that much worse.
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 active, Wendy watched his ever-growing friends list with suspicion in her heart. Shortly after she began declining invitations because she had to study, he began going out without her.
It was becoming very clear that although he had matured, Dan still loved to party. They say that women mature more quickly than men, and while that may be true or not, in this case it was evident in Wendy’s desire to prioritize her schooling during a hard time.
The message 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. Wendy was going over her coursework when she saw the notification come through.
She hesitated, but soon her curiosity got the better of her. Her heart sank when she saw it was from one of Dan’s many female friends. It took everything for her not to read it but she could not look away, she was consumed by her curiosity and wanted to see what this conversation was all about.
Wendy couldn’t help herself. She found herself going through all of Dan’s messages. Although she could not 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. She felt like a failure. And it was not long before her fears seeped into every aspect of her life.
Wendy did realize this at the time but she was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for herself with the negative thinking and going through Dan’s messages. This was what she considered a bit of a low point in her life.
What could Wendy do? She felt like her relationship was spiraling beyond her control. Everyday bickers quickly became giant arguments, fueled by Wendy’s insecurities and Dan’s refusal to compromise. What if he met someone new? Then, a little voice inside her asked: what if he already had?
Most of us do not want to think of the option of our partner wanting to be with someone else, and in Wendy’s case it was not confirmed in any way but she had allowed her insecurities to get the better of her and basically create the future she was so worried about.
Fast-forward to the present – and the notorious photograph. Wendy’s eyes widened as the “likes” crept past the 60,000 mark. Comments flooded in as the photo was shared thousands of times. Friends, family, and the general public were determined to have their say. But why had this photograph that Wendy had posted sparked worldwide controversy?
The couple was incredibly confused as to why the photo was getting so much attention and was pretty much going viral. They were two people in a photo and they thought that there was nothing remarkable about it. Alas, they were wrong.
When Wendy decided to break it off with Dan all those years ago, it had seemed like the logical choice at the time. They had been so young when they had met. She knew that she had changed a lot in those seven years. Looking at the photograph again, she was sure that it had been the best decision she had ever made.
There was a lot of water under the bridge and they were a lot more mature than they were when they were in college partying and trying to get the schoolwork done. This was a totally different time.
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 needed to find out what kind of woman she could become. She went on to eventually receive her Master’s Degree in Public Administration.
But staying away from Dan had proved harder than she had imagined. She wanted to be the strong and independent woman she knew she could be and she knew she needed to be alone for a while to do so, but her love for Dan was very strong.
Dan had not been happy with Wendy’s decision. He was not ready to give up the love of his life. He messaged her every day for the entire year and a half that they were separated. Just like in the beginning, he hoped that his persistence would pay off.
But Wendy had finally found her calling. This was going to be a good thing for Wendy whether she wanted it to be that way or not. She was determined to find her path on her own and make it as the woman she envisioned for herself. Still, Dan is one persistent man.
Though it was a difficult time, Dan eventually realized that Wendy was right. Wendy started her YouTube channel, Wendy’s Curls, where she posted beauty tutorials and gave hairstyling advice. 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.
YouTube being another social platform made it so Wendy was in front of many viewers daily, and means she was not as shy and timid as she used to be when she was not as confident in herself. This was a whole new Wendy.
One day, the couple bumped into each other again after months of not seeing one another. Dan was amazed at the transformation that Wendy had made. The strong, confident woman he saw before him made him fall in love with her all over again. But would she take him back? Wendy had her reservations.
Wendy was not the same woman she was when she decided to end her relationship with Dan, and Dan loved that about her. She knew what she wanted more than ever, but was what she wanted in the end be Dan? That remained to be seen.
Wendy had decided to break up with Dan so they could each find themselves and discover who they were as individuals. Though it was a 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.
There was something about Wendy that was unlike before and it was something she changed about her inside that reflected out. She loved the woman she had become, someone who was comfortable in her own skin. Dan found her that much more attractive as well.
Had Dan changed in such a short time? Wendy thought so. He had been relentless in trying to convince her that they were meant to be together, and he had not dated anybody else during the time they had been apart. He had 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. After time apart, they knew they wanted to give it another shot as they were older, wiser, and more confident in who they are as people.
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. 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. They had managed to navigate through a difficult time and get back together so the world could see them together again on their respective socials.
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. 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 couple was so confused as to why the photo got so much attention – why was the world so interested in them?
Seeing the photos side by side, people could not believe how different Wendy and Dan looked — especially since they appeared much younger now than ten years ago. “Do you both age in reverse?” asked one commenter. “What fountain of youth are you drinking from?” said another.
But, it turns out, there is a reason for such transformation. They go on to explain exactly how they managed to become so healthy and happy… the world wanted to know what these two were doing to look as good as they do – it was the interest of thousands upon thousands of people.
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 is no surprise that both of them worked hard on their bodies. 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. The world of fitness and health is a booming one and these two were jumping on that bandwagon for the sake of themselves and their fans.
Together, Dan and Wendy founded True4You Fitness, a fitness coaching company where they give nutrition and exercise advice to their clients. 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. The world was about to lose its mind with what Wendy and Dan were announcing, they were waiting so long for this since the couple had been together for so long. Seeing such happy news from a couple they love to follow made their fans go wild.
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. With his friend recording everything, he got down on one knee, pulled out a diamond ring and asked Wendy to marry him!
Needless to say, this was more emotional than anyone could have imagined. After ten years together, Dan was ready to make Wendy an honest woman and wanted nothing more than to be her husband moving forward. This was such a huge surprise for the viewers – the comments from fans made everyone smile.
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. 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 had always wanted: travel abroad for months at a time. This is something many of us dream to do but usually do not have the funds or time to do, how incredible to have this opportunity!
Dan and Wendy managed to earn enough money from their fitness venture to travel to Thailand, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and many other places. After returning to the United States, 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? They were not going to stop with their fitness YouTube channel, they had a lot of ideas in mind and wanted to keep expanding their brand and success so that more and more people could be a part of it and share it with them.
Although both Dan and Wendy are originally from New Jersey, they decided to move to the warmer climate of San Diego, California. 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?
They wanted to have sunshine and warm weather every day of the year, which is exactly what you get in a place like San Diego. With their move, they wanted to add to their work together and the success they have seen so far. This was just the beginning for Wendy and Dan.
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… social media has a tendency to make you see only the good and beautiful.
She took a closer look at the photo. Now that it was pointed out to her, she could not believe it. She had been deceived for over a month, and she could not fathom what they were telling her. But why would her daughter do this? And then the truth of it all sank in.
This was the case for a woman who was totally wronged thanks to social media. This happens more often than we care to admit and there are those out there that are masters at making you believe something to be true that is not.
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. The photo editors would work tirelessly to ensure that her shoots were picture perfect, but she did not always agree with their modifications.
Changing how someone looks in a photo is something that can be done tastefully or over the top. There are times when people do not even look like themselves thanks to photoshop and other such programs.
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. 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. There was a lot more to this than met the eye and it was all going to shake everyone to their core.
Laden with her heavy luggage, Zilla arrived at the airport in April 2014 and promptly posted a photograph of her sendoff on Facebook. 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. It was a twist that every single person in her life did not see coming and were totally shocked to learn after the fact. It is hard to imagine how this all took place.
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.
She had no idea how much backlash she would receive for these seemingly innocent photographs later on. This was going to come back to haunt the girl much more than she ever imagined. Wait until you realize why everyone was so upset with them… This was not something they thought Zilla would do.
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.
Her rabid followers waited with bated breath for each snapshot of the young woman’s seemingly perfect life — and she never disappointed them. She posted photo after photo, each looking more and more beautiful and had people commenting and liking the images with their desire to be right here with her! However, there was much more to this than they ever imagined.
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. On the surface, it appeared as though she was living everyone’s wildest dreams and adventures.
But this was far from the truth. Remember, there is much more to the photos than meets the eye and Zilla’s case is exactly why you should not always rely on social media to tell how someone is doing in their life, there is a lot more to this.
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. 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. Zilla was very good at what she did and so no one thought to suspect her or her travels. If her own parents had no idea what was going on, then there was no way that the rest of the world was going to figure it out.
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. 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. Absolutely no one had any idea as to what Zilla was going to tell them about the truth of her trip. This was not something anyone expected of Zilla.
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! When her loved ones had dropped her at the airport, she had disguised herself and returned to her Amsterdam apartment.
No one suspected for one second that Zilla was not out of the country having the time of her life like she was showing them that she was. This was one serious trick she was playing on everyone.
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, 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. The world, and her nearest and dearest, thought that she was all over Asia having the greatest time, when Zilla was actually at home making everyone look like fools as she photoshopped herself into images.
Zilla had even studied Asian cooking videos and had recreated them in her own kitchen to give her posts an authentic feel. 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. It took a lot of time and detail for her to make these images believable but she truly made it happen – everyone believed her!
The most difficult aspect of the 5-week long operation was convincing people of the fake friendships she had made on her travels. 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.
This experiment showed her dedication but also her obsession – this begged the question as to why she would go to such lengths to make others believe she was away. Calling it an experiment is great but it was a lot more than that for Zilla.
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. 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? This meant that she stayed in her apartment for 5 weeks to prove a point, that is seriously extreme for what she wanted to do. Her friends and family were really uncomfortable with her 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. She wanted to prove how easy it is to portray yourself in a specific way on social media.
Zilla surely got a good grade on her paper but it was at the cost of her friends and family and how incredibly fooled they felt by her. She took her project to great lengths and at their expense, but her point was made. She fooled everyone so well.
“…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, 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. Zilla knew the power social media has on people and wanted to show the world that what you see is not necessarily the truth of the matter. The lies that can be spread so believably are all over social media.
“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. “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.”
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. 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. There were many who were hurt by her lies but she wanted to prove a point and could not tell anyone the truth or else she knew it would spread.
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. “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.” This was harder on her than she thought it would be, but in the end it proved a very good point and strong lesson.
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? 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. Remember that things are not always (almost always) as they seem.