It was going to be a sad night in Sam Foran’s dorm on New Year’s Eve. He was going to be on his floor, by himself, eating bread and crying, all alone.
That was the plan, at least until last Wednesday, when 34,000 people decided they wanted to join him. It’s now going to be a very busy, very full, very un-lonely floor in Sam Foran’s dorm to ring in the New Year.
Let him explain, if he can.
“I don’t really know how this happened,” Foran told The Daily Beast. This is not a good start. “I saw a bunch of these random events on Facebook from my roommate. One night I just couldn’t fall asleep and I came up with this idea for one.”
The idea was to create a Facebook event for New Year’s Eve—a date for which he still has no real plans—with the loneliest-sounding name imaginable.
The event is called “Crying and Eating Bread by Yourself on the Floor.”
“I like crying. I like eating bread. I like being by myself. I like lying on the floor. I thought I would combine all four into one epic night of self pity and regret,” he wrote.
Here’s the issue, especially with the “I like being by myself” part. He didn’t invite anybody. Still, likely due to some recent Facebook algorithm shift that allows events to populate more prominently in timelines, people kept responding. And responding.
Now more than 34,000 people Sam Foran has never met—from Canada to Slovenia to Australia—say they’re joining him on his floor in a few weeks. Thirty-eight thousand more are “interested.”
“By the afternoon [last Wednesday], 500 people were interested in it. Later that night, it was into the thousands,” he said.
Then, the next morning?
Foran, a fourth-year biology major at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, with 189 friends on Facebook, had broken the Facebook algorithm. And he’d also accidentally capitalized on a new trend: wonderfully, perfectly fake Facebook events about stupidly funny ideas or deep-rooted feelings about the human condition.
But that’s not what Foran set out to do, of course. He was just trying to copy a Facebook event called “Dropping out of school to become a potato.”
“I’ve never been very good at Facebook or anything like that,” he said. “I’ve never really posted a lot before until now.”
Now he’s part of a growing trend of Facebook events that are going independently viral without any rhyme or reason. Joining him with thousands and thousands of likes are events like “put a burrito in a stroller and push it around like a human child,” which is an event that is set to take place on Christmas Day at 1 a.m.
Some commenters are now dead set on doing just that at a Chipotle, provided they can find one that’s open.
And here’s the best part about it: the community spawned in these hidden spaces? It is open, warm, weird, intensely inclusive, and obscenely on-task.
Foran’s event page, for example, is teeming with questions of grave importance.
“Did anyone resolve the leavened vs unleavened question?” one commenter asks.
“I am physically unable to cry. Does this mean I am unable to participate, or may I participate by eating twice the recommended amount of bread?” says another.
Foran, true to Weird Facebook form, has posted his own question: “wHIO (sic) THE FUCK ARE ALL YOU PEOPLE? THIS IS A SOLO EVENT.”
The New Year’s Eve “event” has become a massive time suck for him heading into finals week at his university. (Indeed, a lot of the viral events seem to be the product of errant procrastination. One is titled, “No Time 2 Study 2 Busy Attending Fake Facebook Events.”)
“I’ve been wasting a lot of time and energy promoting these fake events, going through the event page, thinking of things to say,” he said. “Honest to god, the whole thing is kind of stupid.”
But, hey, what if it isn’t?
In the fall of last year, Medium’s Paul Ford wrote a story with a remarkably similar (if smaller scale) premise. He called it “I had a couple drinks and woke up with 1,000 nerds: The story of Tilde.Club.”
Tilde.Club was Ford’s overnight side project—“an accidental network of hundreds of people all (sort of) working toward a vague common goal on a ridiculous project.” He set up a Unix computer with the implicit goal of creating something a little bit more like the Web in its very, very early stages, where people just had websites and not every possible thing had to be monetized.
“Back in ye olden Inter-Net tymes of the 1990s, if you were a (then youngish) nerd like me, you’d get an account on some server called CyberFox.net and your web address would be http://CyberFox.net/~vixen. (You were ‘vixen.’) And you could put some web pages at that address,” he wrote.
Then, partly out of a sense of nostalgia but also out of a sense of how much better the Internet could be if it reverted to its corporate overlord-free self, hundreds upon hundreds of people flocked to Tilde.Club in days.
Why? Because it was nothing like the Internet as we know it.
“There is no hurry to join. There is no business model, no relevance for brands and nothing to optimize. The site does not compete with anything—for it is just a single computer like millions of others. There is no need to get in on the ground floor, because the ground floor has been there for decades,” Ford wrote.
“If you are respectful of others, you will be welcomed, and people will be excited to see your web pages and to meet you. This is not a special characteristic of Tilde.Club; this is a basic characteristic of decent humans that somehow has become atypical on the Internet.”
It was humans interacting with humans. It was people playing around, experimenting. It was people playing around comfortably, semi-anonymously, with the concept of being open about eating bread while crying on the floor on New Year’s Eve, like we’ve all been tempted to do.
It is an absurdly, gorgeously human thing on a web that now seems built to make you angry at it.
And, of course, because of those expectations, Foran thought about opting for the nuclear option.
“I have not thought that far down the line yet—about what to do next with it. For a minute, I thought of deleting the page,” he said. “Now I think I can’t do that.”
Instead, he’s gone all out with it. He’s messaged some sponsors, he said. (“Kleenex and Wonder Bread. I thought those made the most sense. All I need is bread and tissues.” Dempster’s, a Canadian bread brand, has already formally declined.)
And Foran and his roommate are even thinking about making it a real party. Still, as of Tuesday evening, even though Foran had more than 70,000 people interested in joining him in his quest to have tear-soaked rye on the ground, he was planning on doing that alone.
“I just thought that would be a funny day for a solo event,” he said. “But I don’t have any real plans for New Year’s Eve.”
But, hey, he’s invited Drake and Adele, and he wouldn’t mind if Seth Rogen or James Franco dropped by to host. It seems almost impossible the event would ever get their attention. Then again, if you had told Foran last Tuesday that he would create a community bigger than four Madison Square Gardens based around the concept of having fun with being inveterately lonely over the holidays, he wouldn’t have believed you.
He’s trying to pool it all into something good, like maybe getting everybody to donate some money to CAREInternational (“a buck a person, that’s $40,000”) or something like that.
But don’t ask him for a second act for the flukiest, happiest community on the Internet right now.
“Look, I don’t know,” he said. “Where do you go from eating bread on the floor by yourself?”