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New trend: People tweeting photos of themselves falling down stairs

Oct 2, 2013

If you dig through Twitter with the right search terms, you can find that a whole bunch of disparate people are connected by unexpected commonalities. For example, “fell down stairs” provides a countless number of tweets of people who have just fallen down stairs, and posted this fact on social media.

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Some of the photos are taken during their falls; the victims are usually attempting to take a photo while climbing stairs, and trip right when the shutter goes off, capturing a blurred, horrified face. Other photos are taken right after their falls, often gazing up at the stairs they just stumbled down, or of their own defeated faces. Sometimes people fall and their friends take photos before helping them up (in these cases, the people who fell usually retweet the posted photos, affirming them). A few appear to be faked, directed at celebrities, in what’s likely an effort to get attention/retweets.

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What’s interesting in a social sense is why so many people would choose to share something with the world that is so personally embarrassing. It’s not limited to falling down stairs. For example, if you search “spilled on my” you can find a number of people broadcasting the fact that they’ve spilled something on themselves:

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That last one reads like a Captain Beefheart lyric, doesn’t it?

When these people spill their juice or fall down stairs, they’re generally alone, and they would have gotten away with their clumsiness if they hadn’t tweeted it. So why do they then choose to broadcast it?

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There are three possibilities I can think of. One is that people have become narcissistic enough that they no longer have any shame posting anything embarrassing about themselves to social media. This seems too harsh, though, and falls in line with an irritating and prevalent form of critique against Millennials, often spouted out by cranky and technophobic Baby Boomers who subscribe to “USA Today.” I think this possibility ignores the fact that the majority of the people tweeting seem to have a sense of humor about themselves.

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The second possibility is that they don’t realize that what they’re posting on social media is “public” — they’re just posting stuff they’d tell their friends in person (“My leg is killing me after I fell down the stairs today”), but are inadvertently posting it in an easily discoverable public place that will exist forever.

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Or perhaps they just feel lonely and posting an embarrassing photo of themselves is an easy way to engage with others; it’s a moment other people are likely to recognize and respond to, alleviating the loneliness. Whether or not this kind of attempt to interact with others actually fulfills our intrinsic need to communicate with others or actually just briefly anesthetizes the loneliness without curing it is a different discussion worth having.

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Overall it’s somewhat beautiful and unifying. People across the world, of different races and classes, all of them synchronously falling down stairs. Deep down inside, we’re all clumsy jerks.

More photos of people falling down stairs:

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