By now, you’ve probably heard the story of Joyce Vincent — the 38-year-old socialite whose body laid lifeless in her flat for more than two years. Investigators on her case later revealed that there was no evidence of foul play. It seems like one moment she was here getting ready for the holiday and the next she was dead without a single person noticing. You might be wondering how something like this could happen. What happened to Vincent’s family or friends? Could this actually happen in your community? Could it be me? How could this be possible?
These were some questions that I asked as I read more into her case, watched the documentary about her life, and listened to the testimonies of the people who associated with her. This was shocking to everyone, Vincent was very social, had a successful job, was an incredibly talented singer, and she was beautiful. So, the mystery surrounding her death scared me. I decided that I would run my own little experiment. I decided to go dark to all my local friends and disengage my social media presence among other places of socialization. I would effectively play dead to see how long it would take for someone to notice my absence. My plan was to see the people who would miss me and keep those people close and fix my friendships come the new year.
I would effectively play dead to see how long it would take for someone to notice my absence.
Week one: I decided not to deactivate my Facebook page, but I wouldn’t open the app and to ensure that, I deleted the app completely off of my phone. I also deleted Twitter. I used the time that I would regularly spend online to reflect on myself. There was so much I wanted to do like read a book, write, pray, etc. It was the first week out of winter break. I used my vacation time to take off work, so that I wouldn’t be seen by anyone and honestly to catch up on sleep because this last semester has been especially brutal.
I started to feel very lonely and, unfortunately, my anxiety got worse. I remember this one time, I was sitting in my mother’s car and I had to pull over because I felt so much pain. I’m not a crier. I don’t cry, but I felt a lot of emotions and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t force tears even though I thought it would make it better. I started to isolate myself because that’s what I do to avoid talking about my mental health. I would forget to eat until I felt physically weak and I kept on getting sick. When I couldn’t handle it, I reopened WhatsApp to see what was going on and I saw that I had exactly 6,783 unread messages in the group-chat and a few other direct messages. Most of the missed discussion was about a TV show (Being Mary Jane). Some asked advice on a piece of clothing and others shared memes. None of that dissipated the feeling I had formed. This forced me to see that outside of my own two parents and my siblings, no one would check up on me. I don’t write this for people to feel sorry for me. I write this because I hope this gives me the strength to change the friendships I have formed over the years. I hope this encourages you to reflect on your own friendships.
For a long time, I would pride myself on being the “present friend”– the one who people felt comfortable talking to. I don’t know what it is but I somehow always got people to open up to me, to share their problems with me, and I would give them solace through my advice. I don’t have boy troubles to work through or any riveting tales to tell. Honestly, I just bring good banter and memes and most of my problems, I convince myself, are lame. I never sit down and tell people how I feel, but God willing, this year, I am going to use every opportunity to tell the people I love that I am not as put together as I make it seem. I will be open to talking about my mental health. And I will learn to not take myself too seriously.
It’s now three weeks after my experiment and all I have to say is, make sure you take some time out of your busy life to do a wellness check on your family, friends, and neighbors. Reach out to the people you were once close to because despite how well put together everyone may seem, we all need someone to talk to. I’ll leave you with this quote from Norman Cousins, “…the eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.” This could be easily accomplished if we get behind each other, am I right?