Boy from Milton Keynes goes on Love Island - or does he?
A teenager from Milton Keynes deliberately duped tens of thousands of people into believing he was going to be a contestant on Love Island – just to prove the dubious power of social media.
Callum Ryan, 19, wanted to show how the public could idolise somebody one minute and then send them hate mail the next.
He and his pal Jamie Stimpson created photos and content as though Callum was going into the Love Island villa.
“The thing is, we made it very obvious that I wasn’t going to be appearing by using questionable Photoshopping skills and by making small hints throughout,” said Callum.
The theory they were setting out to prove was that people are so drawn into social media and fake lifestyles, they would believe anything was true.
Incredibly, he lads managed to rack up more than 3.5 million views on Callum's TikTok and gained nearly 100,000 followers. Through his social media, Callum 'went into' Love Island with more followers than any of the contestants – while all the time sitting at home in Milton Keynes.
''Callum was getting recognised on the street in the days running up to Love Island beginning. The amount of people who saw the videos was insane,” said Jamie.
Social Media is a powerful tool but this just shows, even when something is quite obvious, people still fall into a 'social media trap,' and this happens to all of us, all day every day.”
Half an hour before the official Love Island show began on Sunday evening, Callum and Jamie posted a video on their social media confessing their prank.
But many of his followers still refused to believe it and by 9pm, when Love Island started, his name was top of all the programme's search.
Meanwhile his video, on a more serious note, highlighted the dangers of online bullying and social media hatred.
''We wanted to tell the world that you should focus more on yourself than on social media,” said Callum, whose Instagram is @thatonecal.
“Social media, if used right, can be highly useful, but I also believe it is a big contribution to mental health issues and it can all begin over a small comment, which can lead to people feeling depression, anxiety and even suicidal," he added.
Callum has past experience of online bullying through a raised social media profile.
In 2018 he appeared on Channel 5's Rich Kids Go Skint. Then a 16-year-old vlogger whose expensive shopping habit was funded by the bank of mum and dad, he went to stay with a struggling single father as an experiment.
Callum, who lives in a Grade II listed thatched cottage in Milton Keynes, confessed to spending up to £1,000 on a single pair of coveted Yeezy trainers, and admitted he had thought people on benefits “couldn't be bothered to work."
Though the show earned him a good following on social media, he also had his fair share of hate mail.
“As soon as you get a bit of attention, whether you're a positive role model or not, people hate and bully. It doesn't make sense to me. I don't think we can stop it totally, but we can educate and help reduce it,” he said.
“Watch the video, we think it's quite powerful.... Keep an eye on what you say, how you say it and who you say it too, or better still, if it isn't nice, don't say it at all.”