The following post was part of a class project I did back in January 2014. The Class was Net Art and the assignment was to “create an online spectacle.” The original post can be viewed here.


Posted on January 29, 2014

It look me a long time to figure out what exactly I wanted to do for this project. I knew I would do something on Facebook, since that is the only social media platform I use on a regular basis. Originally, I had a lot of interesting ideas involving “spamming” and ways to get on people’s nerves by polluting the Facebook newsfeed. However, I didn’t want to use project to just annoy people, lose friends, and damage my reputation. I eventually realized that I could use this project in a “kind” fashion, and instead of bug people, I could make their days.

Here’s a list of people/things that inspired me to do what I ultimately did:

My friend Sherwin: He generously gives people gifts through Facebook on their birthdays.
My friend Akshay: He lent me his old math text book this semester, and allowed me to save $175 from buying a new one. The extra money was used for this “social media experiment”
Give Back Films, Stuart Edge, LAHWF: All of these are some of my favorite YouTube channels which feature various random acts of kindness

The Experiment

– Late Monday night, I posted the following status:

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For any friend to like or comment on the status I would buy $5 Starbucks gift card through Facebook gifts. I rarely see people give gifts through Facebook, so I was very interested to see what the reaction would be (considering I was giving gifts for no apparent reason). I should note all the gifts were purchased with my own money, and I decided beforehand to give no more than 35 five-dollar gift cards since this would add up to $175 (the amount of money I saved on the textbook). As people started liking the status, the gift-giving began…

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Tea-Rex was the go-to E-card for most people. And due to the recent cold wave, I wished the recipients to stay warm. 

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As more people began to like the status, I went on a gift-giving rampage…

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Soon the responses began to pour in. Here are a handful of them…

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One of my friends– Sherwin, actually copied my idea!

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I liked his post, and pretty soon…

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I should note, my intention of this experiment was not to have people pay me back. My intention was to make people’s days a little bit better and get them to “pay it forward”. Once I reached 35 likes I posted the following status.

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Results:

At the end of the day, here are the results:

Number of status likes: 37 (2 people were a little too late)

Number of status comments: 4

Here’s the actual status as of now: 

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Number of $5 Starbucks gift cards purchased: 35

Money spent: $175

Number of friends to post on my wall in response: 9

Number friends to thank me in a chat message: 14

Number of friends to thank me one way or another: ~35; pretty much everyone who received a gift

Number of friends to question why exactly I was doing this: 2

Number of friends to copy exactly what I did: 1

Conclusions:

Overall, everyone seemed surprised but very grateful to receive the random gifts. Once I started sending out the gifts, it seemed like more people started to realize what was going on, and as result, more people liked my status. It felt good to give back to so many friends, a good deal of which I haven’t spoken to in months or years. I hope this experiment will influence my friends to participate in doing random acts of kindness (even if it doesn’t involve spending money). I felt sorry for the 2 people who liked my status after I reached 35 likes. However, I really enjoyed doing this experiment so it’s quite possible I’ll do it again.

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