Mislabeled TikTok convinces Florida woman to go to Gastonia

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TikToker Zachary Keesee in front of Lake Lungern during a trip to Switzerland in January 2020.

Zachary Keesee

Gastonia and Switzerland do not have much in common. But a viral TikTok video prompted a Florida woman to visit what she thought was a small pastoral village surrounded by snow-capped mountains in North Carolina.

Olivia Garcia traveled with her family to the Carolinas from Jupiter, Florida to check for snow during winter storm Izzy last week. While on his way to Angel Oak Park in Charleston, SC, the 26-year-old found a TikTok video titled “Gastonia, NC.” Fascinated by the mountains in the video, she convinced her family to take a detour.

“I’m from South Florida, so the closest thing we have to the mountains here is the landfills, which is why I was so excited when I saw the TikTok,” Garcia told the Observe. “I had never heard of Gastonia before, but the name sounded like something out of a Disney movie.”

What Garcia didn’t know was that the TikTok was actually a video from Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, not Gastonia, west of Charlotte.

“I realized when we were about 20 minutes away that something was wrong,” she said.

There were no mountains in sight, only “dilapidated gas stations” and no functioning restrooms, Garcia said. The only mountains nearby were a hiking park, she said.

“I’m sure there’s a nicer part of town, but we didn’t stick around long enough to find out,” Garcia said.

Embarrassed, Garcia created her own TikTok acknowledging that she got “RickRolled” by tricking him into thinking Gastonia was a village in Switzerland.

“The moral of the story, don’t believe anything you see on the internet,” Garcia said.

‘Always search!’

The culprit behind TikTok Garcia’s discovery was 22-year-old Zachary Keesee, who felt bad about the whole situation.

“I told him I was sorry on his video,” said Keesee, who lives in Durham, North Carolina, and graduated from NC State. “She seemed to take some humor out of it and said it was okay.”

Keesee’s TikTok of “Gastonia” has over 5.7 million views and is one of 19 “Not Carolina” videos he has posted in the past few weeks. The mislabeled videos were inspired by a friend who went skiing in the Rockies and posted a photo of his trip on social media with the caption “I love skiing in Boone,” Keesee said.

Keesee’s TikToks videos are from different places he has traveled to over the years. In a video with over 318,000 views, he took a video of the Duomo di Milano cathedral in Milan, Italy, and titled it “Concord Mills Mall, North Carolina.” A separate video from Venice, Italy has over 143,000 views and is mislabeled “Raleigh, NC”.

The video used in the mislabeled Gastonia TikTok is from a trip to Switzerland Keesee took with his father in January 2020. Keesee said he likes to travel because his father, a software engineer, commutes to work and brought him memories.

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Zachary Keesee and his father during a trip to Switzerland in January 2020. Zachary Keesee

Although Keesee has over 500 videos posted on her profile, TikToks “Not Carolina” garnered the most views. People like to tell others they’re wrong, and that’s why the videos have worked so well, Keesee said.

Keesee is constantly bombarded by people in his comments section telling him how inaccurate his videos are.

“People tell me I’ve never been to Gastonia, or not from there,” Keesee said. “I’m sorry if they don’t get the humor I wanted with the videos, but hey, you can’t trust everything you see on the internet. Always look!

This story was originally published January 23, 2022 9:00 a.m.

Jonathan Limehouse is a breaking news reporter and covers all the major happenings in the Charlotte area. He covered a litany of other beats from public safety, education, public health and sports. He is a proud graduate of UNC Charlotte and a native of Raleigh.

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