Remember when we used to not know things?
And that was the whole conversation. Nobody took their instant-knowing machines out of their pockets, searched for an answer online, and tonelessly read it aloud. We’d just come to terms with the fact that this was as close as we were ever going to get to the truth, and we were perfectly happy being wrong doofuses forever.
I kind of miss that primal bond shared between luddites trying (but failing) to figure it all out. I wanted to feel that again. And so I began my weird experiment where I heroically forced everyone I hold dear to answer my random questions. The plan? To text people out of the blue with a question I would normally ask a search engine, without telling them what exactly I was up to, hoping to see 1) if I would indeed get the information I desired, and 2) if it brought us any closer as people.
They're our most ardent allies, predisposed to giving a cheery “sure, honey” to every half-formed inquiry we’ve ever had since our inception. That’s why it only made sense to start my experiment with my own mother.
For example, this is what she had to say when I asked about something for an article I was writing:
It was so sweet that she never asked why I wanted to know, so I asked her something random for the heck of it.
She really liked that last one.
Useful source of information? Yes! Moms are wise beings.
Did it bring us closer? Yes! Well...it’s pretty clear my mom is an actual angel gracing our sinful planet and was just delighted to talk to her son, even if I was asking her horrifically stupid things. We should all talk to mothers more — they're good people.
I knew I could ask my mom inane questions and never get on her nerves, but my friends?
They didn’t raise me from a babe and therefore have a much smaller threshold for my baloney. And so I asked my closest friends the riddles I would normally whisper into the internet void.
First, I asked my buddy about belly lint.
And my work friend about pretzel bread.
I even deputized one friend as my Haim correspondent.
At a certain point I dropped the pleasantries and just texted friends exactly the types of things I’d type into the search bar. Some people rightfully thought it was weird to be treated like a computer.
But even more weird were the people who responded like it was a totally normal way to communicate.
As fun as it was to dish out random trivia to people, I got the best responses when I targeted my questions to people I knew were already interested in the topic. Apparently people like to talk about the things they are interested in? 🤔
For example, my buddies who are into high fantasy.
Or my other buddy who's a big Stallone head.
Or even my other other buddy who is...just a gross dude.
Useful source of information? Once I started utilizing my friend network by selecting friends to question based on the subject, the information got way more accurate.
Did it bring us closer? I’m trying hard not to sound like an android learning the basic tenets of human emotion for the first time here, but, obviously, when I flattered my friends by complimenting their expertise in a subject (be it Stallone...or farts) it made them feel good and want to help me out!
After sticking to the rivers and the lakes I was used to, I decided to go ahead chase waterfalls by posting my irreverent questions on social media.
Here I was met with people who, although they didn’t know me as well, were glad to help, if only because they were clearly bored as heck at work.
Some people didn’t take my requests very seriously.
Naturally food was a popular topic.
But then I became consumed by one question in particular.
Have you ever had an image of a TV show or movie you used to watch as a kid etched in your skull, and even though the characters, storylines, and theme song seem so familiar, nobody knows what the heck you’re talking about?
I had that.
He was a koala! And he had overalls! The knapsack is so clear in my mind! Folks, was I going absolutely ragingly insane??
Admittedly? At the time, that seemed like a fair assessment.
See, right before I started this experiment, I was moving things out of my closet and, while carrying a very heavy AC unit, slipped and dropped the thing on my head, and it made me bleed a lot of blood.
I thought it was kinda funny actually.
But as I went around asking my loved ones one by one if they had seen a koala dressed as a vagabond, they started getting (understandably) concerned.
I decided it would be best not to post a status about whether or not I had brain trauma and just went straight to the doctor instead.
I probably texted, like, 10 baffled people about the dang koala before I decided to take it to Facebook.
Within minutes, a concerned citizen came to my aid.
He took another crack at it.
He had it all! The overalls! THE KNAPSACK!
Useful source of information? Most people on social media weren’t exactly clamoring to answer my questions, but every once in a while I’d find someone who 1) was bored, and 2) had the answer I was looking for.
Did it bring us closer? The nature of social media kind of dissuades intimate discussion, but I guess I did really connect with that one guy over ’90s cartoons featuring koala bears. Turns out my obsession with this was not just a symptom of a concussion (which I don’t have, by the way).
For whatever reason, my most cynical audience was my once-beloved colleagues at BuzzFeed.
I was severely roasted on our group chats.
In the end, I knew I needed to retire my experiment for fear of being labeled either incompetent or just really freaking annoying by my coworkers.
What did I learn from all...this?
In having to rely on my friends and family to get my information, it revealed them all to be the sweet and helpful people I knew them to be. And I really appreciated connecting with them in this absolutely idiotic endeavor (except my coworkers — they can get bent).
Ultimately though, apart from my mother who is an all-knowing cherub, most of my friends never really had the answer I needed and resorted either to looking it up themselves or accusing me of having serious head trauma. While it was fun for a bit, I couldn't live as if I were stuck in that weird dome with Pauly Shore from that movie I forget the name of forever.
(Actually, BRB — going to go look that up right quick.)
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Design by Kara Mohr