This morning I noticed an emotional thread on Reddit, a popular, user-generated, social news site. The thread began as an IamA/AMA (“I Am a [blank], ask me anything…”) where a pseudonymous poster (‘lucidendings’) described having only 51 hours to live due to a long battle with cancer and having chosen to die under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. While reading through the comments, it was difficult not to get caught up in the emotion around this post and the outpouring of (mostly) kindness toward this person. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories, the #ShinyHappyInternet as my friend Jen often jests, and I regularly use such examples in my presentations (e.g., Help Me Fix My Last Picture of Mom, Kathleen Gets a Toy Shopping Spree).
If you follow the story through the thread, you will see remarkable things. For instance, the thread itself (at the time of writing) has over 6500 comments, the majority being kind & generous. There’s the user-generated map featuring warm, heart-felt messages from across the globe. There’s the touching but short-video from a Youtuber featuring a star-balloon as it rises to the sky (wait for the smile at the end). Then there’s the flurry of people attempting to stream the sun rising in Key West as it was identified by lucidending’s as a favorite moment in life.
Yet, the entire time I read through these threads and viewed the kindness of strangers, I thought to myself, what if this person is lying? It happens (thanks Chris). In this case, we may never know for sure. But how demoralizing could this be for a community (online or not)?
But maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the humanity that emerges here in times like this is enough for us to be optimistic. Jen notes,”That whole thing is a good example of an occasion where it doesn’t matter if the original post is authentic.”
In digging deeper into the original thread, I find this gem. One Redditer, in critiquing the outpouring writes:
…another bandwagon to jump on. Just like the TSA and Wikileaks, reddits short attention span settles on the death of a complete stranger.
Countless people around the world are going to die today. Almost none of them are going to make that choice, almost none of them are going to choose to die today.
Lucid got to choose when to die. He gets to prepare. Not one tear for all the other deaths, but a thread of people bitching about onions for this guy.
He deserves the attention he’s getting. What he’s gone though, and what he will do through in the next few days… well, none of us could ever comprehend it.
And this is countered with the following …
I think you fundamentally misunderstand the outpouring of emotion for Lucidending. The outpouring of emotion is for all those faceless and nameless deaths, for our own deaths, and all the ones before and since. The outpouring of emotion is a small window into our own mortality and humanity, and with it the pain, love, joy, and despair of them all.
Lucidendings, if your destiny is as you describe, I feel nothing but warm thoughts for you and I wish you all the best on your journey. In any case, your post has inspired others to be generous, caring, and inspiring to others. I can still believe that the Internet, and of course the world that it reflects, is a (mostly) shiny, happy place.
So what are your thoughts on all of this?
Update: As was somewhat suspected, lucidending’s story may have been a hoax. Gawker’s Adrian Chen has taken responsibility for the hoax, although that story is also being disputed.