My grandfather used to grab a Thrifty Nickel on the way home from work just about every day. During the few moments he would give himself for leisure he would read said Thrifty Nickel. For those of you that did not grow up in Southeast New Mexico or West Texas. A Thrifty Nickel is a newspaper of nothing but classified ads. For those of you too young to remember newspapers, think Craigslist without the search feature. The thing is in the years that I remember him doing this; I remember twice that he actually bought something from it. One of those times was a car for me. I imagine that somehow he got the same euphoria out of it that we do today while reading about people on social media. It allowed him in some way to know what was going on through who was selling what.
A little over a year ago I read a story, today I am not sure if the story were a factual story or a fictional story, but the gist of the story was that this woman was a work from home wife. The husband killed the wife and then in an effort to hide the murder he continued to do here work from home. In a further effort to hide her murder he kept her social networking updated and even texted her friends from time to time posing as her. In the story the man got away with it for two weeks. He had fooled this woman’s family, her boss, and all of her friends into believing that she was still alive and writing to them. I wondered if this was something that was even possible. Could someone manipulate my friends and family into believing I was alive for two weeks? This thought lead to an even bigger question. That question was would anyone even notice if someone disappeared for two weeks? Thus an experiment was born.
January 1, 2014 through January 1, 2015 I posted something on social media every chance that I could do so. The goal in this was to be seen. My friends, family, and even some complete strangers would know almost every aspect of what was going on in my life. I posted the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of most things. I amassed three hundred and forty “friends” on Facebook. It was not hard for me to come up with things to post. I have a real passion for writing, and I usually imagine that I am writing a note to someone when posting on social media. On January 1, 2015 I posted a message on Facebook “And the experiment begins now.” One friend posted a question mark and I hit like. This would be the last thing I did on social media for two weeks. Would anyone notice?
I was a little reluctant to do this experiment because I hypothesized that the outcome would be that nobody notices and that the results of this experiment would be taken as some kind of indictment on someone. Or even worse it would be taken as some kind of cry for attention. Rest assured that it is neither. It is simply an experiment to see whether or not the actions that I read in the story was necessary and maybe for me to learn something about human nature and myself at the same time. We read or hear all of the time about the person who changes their social media habits and then does something drastic. Many times we hear people say that they should have seen the signs and “done something.”
One thing that I learned about myself is that I am extremely vain. Over the course of the last two weeks I found it harder to not post something to Facebook, Flickr, You Tube, or so much as send an email than it was for me to over the course of an entire year to find something to put on those devices every free minute. It was very hard for me to not respond to things that I would see, especially those things that I feel very passionate about. It was hard for me to not hit “Like” when I would see something that needed no comment from me, but still made my heart warm or made me laugh. For two weeks I was dead and watched everyone through their Facebook. I even wondered if that might be what it was like to be a spirit, able to see, able to feel, but not able to act.
People now use social media the way that my grandparents used the newspaper and the 9 o’clock news. To put it bluntly we are nosey. We want to know what is going on in the lives of our neighbors and friends and we don’t really care if it is true or not. Fortunately we are also vain and willing to give that information. 20 years ago we had to rely on the gossip from someone else, but now we can now get it straight from the fingertips of those involved. The question still remains though. Would we be keen enough to notice if behavior changed when it changed? A lot of you at this point are probably thinking to yourself that you did not notice that I was gone for those two weeks. Don’t feel bad though, you were not alone. I told you at the beginning that there were three hundred and forty friends on my Facebook feed alone and the truth is that out of those 340 not even one sent me a message or mentioned that he or she noticed my absence. The experiment went just as I hypothesized. The man in the story didn’t have to go as far as updating the woman’s social media; no one would have noticed her gone any way. When someone does something drastic and they interview all of the person’s social media “friends” who state “I should have known something was wrong.” Remember that we all have REAL lives of our own. A great deal of social media is FICTION and because it is such we are not responsible for knowing the difference or for that matter when something has changed.