Facebook prank goes viral

Chilliwack graduate Austin Knill is learning just how powerful the web is after his Facebook prank goes viral.

Photo shopped image of used in a Facebook prank by Austin Knill that has gone viral.

A Facebook prank that was only meant to fool friends has gone viral.

Chilliwack’s Austin Knill has been fielding friend requests for days, maxing out at 999.

“I haven’t been able to delete them fast enough,” he said. “My phone has been buzzing incessantly from friend requests.”

All because of a so-called girlfriend who had apparently tattooed Knill’s face onto her forearm – after just one week of dating.

Shortly before Valentine’s Day, Knill and Cameron Kenis, both University of Victoria students who graduated from Sardis secondary, thought it would be fun to fool their friends into believing Knill had a crazy girlfriend.

They created a fake Facebook account for Sara Hartly, complete with fake friends, and interests such as Taylor Swift, “stuff we thought typical girls would be interested in.”

Knill also went on a pretend first date, and reprogramed Kenis’ contact information to come up as Sara Hartly every time he texted or called to add to the credibility of her character.

But this girl was not your typical sweet girlfriend that everyone instantly loves.

“We knew we wanted to make her go completely and utterly insane and see how far we could push the boundaries,” said Knill. “We kind of wanted to make her seem like all the craziest movie characters you could imagine funneled into one super jealous girlfriend.”

Think modern day Fatal Attraction.

After just one date, Sara Hartly posted she was “in a relationship” with Knill. A couple days later, she started posting messages on Knill’s wall telling him she loved him and repeatedly asking if he loved her back.

The coup de grâce happened one week after their first date when Hartly posted a photo of her forearm with a large tattoo of Knill’s face.

“The comments from my friends lit up,” said Knill, who had blended a photo of his face into a random arm found on the Web using Photoshop.

“It surprised me that everyone thought there was actually someone out there crazy enough to get this done… It probably wouldn’t have worked had it not been for all the effort we put into making her seem like a real person beforehand.”

Knill announced shortly after that it was hoax, but by then the prank had already begun to spread, appearing on several social news websites, including Reddit, FAIL Blog, 9Gag, Memebase, and Cheeseburger.

The story was also picked up by Maclean’s and Huffington Post.

“It’s amazing how huge this has gone,” said Knill. “”People are estimating it’s been seen by several hundred thousand viewers. Pretty much every continent, except Antarctica, has seen this. I’ve got all kinds of messages on Facebook, people from Malaysia, Russia, Poland, Argentina, France, Brazil – all these countries saying it’s huge there.

“I think it was Andy Warhol who said that in the future, everyone will have 15 minutes of fame – that’s exactly what this has been.”

Knill, who has since taken down Sara Hartly’s Facebook account, is working on a t-shirt design to commemorate the hoax.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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