Should The Internet Track Down One Man's Manic Pixie Dream Girl? (Probably Not.)

Friday, December 06, 2013 - 02:31 PM

At Slate, Amanda Hess argues the internet ought to halt its quest to track down one guy's manic pixie dream girl. The guy in question is a New Zealander who met an American woman in Hong Kong on New Year's Eve last year:

Last year, 25-year-old New Zealander Reese McKee was celebrating New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong, traipsing among the brilliant lights of the city, when he happened upon an American woman crying alone on the side of the road. He told her jokes. She laughed. They drank. They danced. They reconnected with the friends she had lost earlier in the evening. Then, they parted ways at 6 a.m. But not before this sad, attractive mystery woman left Reese with two fateful words: “Find me.”

Hess points out, very reasonably, that sometimes, people who meet a stranger on New Year’s Eve and leave that stranger no contact information would prefer not to be found. And that we shouldn’t be so motivated by a stranger’s unverifiable story, even if it reminds us of movies we've seen.

If Reese had just been like, “I am looking to hunt down a woman. All I have is her name, general location, and this photograph she never consented to be blasted across the Internet,” we would all probably be like, “Dude—leave Katie alone.” But thread in a few personal details about hurt, heartbreak, and personal discovery, and we’re all asking, “Do you recognize this face?” in the service of remedying Reese’s (deeply thematic) sense of loss.

I think the baseline problem here is that the attention of the internet scales its collective attention very badly. It’s not particularly creepy for one guy to look for a stranger he met once. It’s terrifying to imagine a mob of people trying to do the same. You see this dynamic more often in stories about people being shamed online -- our Reddit typewriter guy, or human flesh search engines. Someone does something a little wrong, but the details of their story are compelling enough to spread widely. A crowd assembles, and that crowd punishes the bad guy disproportionately. There’s a reason why mob justice is considered one of the less great kinds of justice (below both poetic justice and normal courtroom justice). 


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Comments [4]


Your last paragraph really strikes a chord. I often find the righteous mob anger much scarier than the offensive remark of some random individual. Plus my newly acquired fear of waking up to find me picking my nose is somehow the next big viral gif.. I don't think enough is being said about this issue yet.

Dec. 19 2013 04:35 AM
Salgood Sam from Montreal

I'd agree that he should let it go, enjoy the memory - my own experience with new years trists turning into everyday attempts at relations suggests it's generally not meant to be. But, if she said "Find me".... Still probably doomed never to live up to the romantic hype, but she certainly invited the attempt? And the romantic types i've known prone to those sorts of gestures, would love a suitor who could move the human search engine to fulfill their romantic "destiny". No more advisable i'd bet, but i would not blame him for trying.

Dec. 11 2013 06:31 PM

Run, Katie, Run is right. Sure he looks sweet and apple cheeked, but if a woman went to this length would it be considered romantic, or would people think she was desperate and clingy? I would be horrified if a snappy of me was published across the world like this. What if she's trying to not be found for other reasons?

Here's a tip to all the dudes of the world: I know it's hard to accept, but you might not be the most charming man on earth. If a woman doesn't give you her contact info - her FULL number, her ACTUAL email address, her last name, etc - she just isn't that into you. Life isn't a John Cusack film. Don't leave your fiancee at the alter, don't galvanize the power of social media, don't grab her by the hand even when she "shyly" demures from dancing with you and make her "carpe diem"... she is just not that into you.

Dec. 07 2013 12:46 AM
Ann Scott from New York

Maybe he can't find her because she doesn't want to be found. I was really surprised and alarmed when the guy who got the stewardess to let him sit beside me on a flight from Peru to the U.S. called me more than a year later. When he had asked me to marry him on the plane, I said "No" but I guess he thought he could change my mind. In his year-later followup call he told me he had learned English so that he could talk to me, and wanted to come to see me (a cross-country trip). This is why Caller ID was invented.

Dec. 06 2013 05:42 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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