Monday, January 24, 2011

My Virtual Suicide: A Social Networking Experiment

Have you ever heard one of those horrifying news stories that creep you out so much that you never forget them? Mine is the one about the single woman dying in her home only to be found after days or weeks or even (OMG!) after the neighbors noticed an odd smell. Sadly, that isn’t a news story that I’ve only heard once.

A few years back I fell down the flight of stairs that were inside my old apartment. I was saved from major injury by landing on a pool inner tube lying at the bottom of the stairs. Thankfully I had my cell phone with me (actually I accidentally threw it down ahead of me when I fell), so I was able to call my sister. (For those of you who are curious – when the shock wore off, I realized my ankle was just slightly sprained, and an ice pack at work helped me feel ok again fairly quickly.) After that gravity induced scare I started leaving my shoes at the bottom of the stairs and not putting them on until I was on the way out the door. My heels were what had tripped me.

That could have been a lot worse, but really I’m not scared no one would miss me if I suddenly disappeared. I talk to my family almost daily. I work at a job that would notice my absence quickly; 30 unattended high schoolers are a bit noticeable. I have great friends that would check on me if I didn’t respond to emails or texts. And while I complain about being lonely, I really do have a great support system that would miss me. I say they’d miss me, but mostly they’d notice that the world had suddenly got eerily quiet as my incessant chatter would have come to an abrupt end. ;-)

Where did this lead me? Well I have about 120 followers on Twitter, and I realized I tweet 20 – 50 tweets a day. Many of those tweets are actually to certain people, so they don’t come across everyone’s daily feed, but it’s still a lot of virtual chatter. So I asked myself,

If I committed virtual suicide with my social networks by suddenly stopping all posting, how long would it take someone to come looking for me?

Then I realized I’d been looking for a topic to blog about, and this would be GREAT blog material!

Facebook isn’t the most fair spot for this experiment since I don’t post there daily BUT some of my tweeps are Facebook friends too, so I knew/hoped if I stopped on Twitter, they’d head over to Facebook to see if I was gone from there too. Here’s my last status update on Facebook:

Yes, it was a shameless 'I want this for my bday' link share!

And here’s my “time of death” on Twitter: Run of the mill random response to someone about Five Guys Burgers and how I've never tried it.

I told my sister, LaRae, and my best friend, Tracy, what was going on, so they wouldn’t mess it up. I also made some predictions, a hypothesis if you will, so I wouldn’t feel bad if didn’t get any responses after 24 hours. My prediction was that it would take at least 3 days (72 hours) for someone to notice my virtual death and ask what was up.

It took about 40 hours. Wow was I off in my guess! Around 10:30 this morning my good friend Kyle sent me a DM (direct message) on Twitter asking if I was ok because I had been “oddly quiet.” (Background: Kyle and I converse through Twitter like some people text, so it’s like I cut off all conversation with him.) I immediately responded asking him not to be annoyed at me for running a social networking experiment and thanking him for checking on me. After his reply I realized what my official second to last tweet had been:

"I think I'm having an existential crisis but not in a you should worry about me or an I want to talk about it sort of way. Make sense? :)"

Whoops! *red face* I have been mentally working through some stuff, but I didn’t mean for that tweet to be alarming. My apologies!

What did I learn from this experiment? I learned it’s really hard to be virtually quiet. I’m just not a quiet person, virtually or in real life. I also learned I tweet too much (but I’m not sure I care to change that). I learned that just because I didn’t reply to anyone for 40 hours didn’t mean I could make up for lost time! (Kyle almost instantly got a 400+ character tweet containing replies to about 6 different things he had mentioned while I was silent!) I mostly learned that real friends will notice when you disappear.

What are the results of my experiment? While my virtual body went cold, I’m not sure that it would have started decomposing yet at least not to the point of smelling. Honestly I’m not sure on that at all since when I Googled how long it takes for a body to start decomposing, I got sick of reading about it and was getting grossed out, so I gave up. Either way, I learned that my friends will notice my lack of chatter, but my random followers who don’t know me beyond my tweets will not. So THANKS KYLE for noticing I was gone! You rock! Besides I told Tracy that if no one mentioned my absence it meant that I didn’t need to be tweeting and would just stop for good. So you can all breathe a sigh of relief as I am back and tweeting again in full force! *wink*

I leave you with this: although many of you live with someone, so your actual death would be noticed quickly, how long would it take your virtual death to make waves?

Disclaimer: This was by no stretch of the imagination a "test of friendship." It was simply something I'd been curious about. When I wrote "real friends" I meant those who have taken time to get to know me beyond my virtual identity. Someone who I just know by twitter username alone is a virtual friend. I don't know much about their thoughts and personal lives except for what they tweet. Others know me in real life or else know me through emails and such where we've really gotten to know each other are what I consider "real life friends"... real friends. No one was being tested! :) Love you all!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Knots

I've been searching my mind for what to blog about next. Honestly I really enjoy blogging even if no one hardly reads it. I've had a lot on my mind (which isn't new) which has caused me to have a lot of "down" evenings (also not new). I have a friend who sends me about 10 forwards at a time, and in between the lame (yes some are lame) forwards, cute animal pictures (which I love, please feel free to forward them to me), inaccurate warnings, and incorrect political stuff, this showed up, and it spoke to me.

Before I post this, I do HATE posting forwards. It goes with status updates and tweets just being song lyrics: aren't you clever enough to write your own thoughts?! But I've done this once before, and I've been known to get some lyrics going in my tweets, so I beg your forgiveness, and I'll be original some other time. (I do have a song I really really am thinking about posting...)

Religious, faithful, or not, please read this. I think it will speak to many about what they want to be rid of in their lives like it's spoken to me.

The Knots Prayer
Dear God:
Please untie the knots
that are in my mind,
my heart and my life.
Remove the have nots,
the can nots and the do nots
that I have in my mind.
Erase the will nots,
may nots,
might nots that may find
a home in my heart.
Release me from the could nots,
would nots and
should nots that obstruct my life.
And most of all,
Dear God,
I ask that you remove from my mind,
my heart and my life all of the am nots
that I have allowed to hold me back,
especially the thought
that I am not good enough.

What 'nots' are you needing untied?