My Crowdsourced Life

Who needs self-reflection when you have Twitter? One man spends a week living off the collective wisdom of friends, followers and total strangers to see if social media does, in fact, hold all the answers.

Not that any of this matters to me in the midst of my disaster; I’m just grateful for the goodwill of my crowd and the dozens of answers they give. I call one of the plumbers. (At this point, not in the mood to take chances, I crowdsource my crowdsourcing, checking reviews both on Yelp and Angie’s List.) The plumber comes, fixes the leak, and charges me a ridiculous amount of money. But I have my water back, my floor isn’t that damaged, and my nerves are calmed.

A week later, the pipe bursts again, this time soaking everything from my kitchen to the living room. My crowdsourced plumber fixes it a second time, charges more money, and leaves. When it bursts a third time, my gratitude has dissipated, and all I’m left with is anger at the plumber, at the pipes, at this project, and — goodwill or no — at the crowd.

Crowd Question #4:

Which outfit should I wear on my date?

It’s Tuesday night. I’m meeting someone new. I lay out two outfits on a bed, snap photos, and post them to Facebook: Would the Internet have me don my winter uniform of black pants and navy blue shirt? Or would it opt for the look I think of as “librarian-chic”: red-orange pants and a blue cardigan?

The crowd likes the bright outfit. I wear it. The date goes well, I guess — though there’s no mention of my clothes. Nobody gives me approving glances on the sidewalk. But! Nor does anybody laugh.

The date and I go out again, but we aren’t really into each other. My outfit — and the crowd’s opinion of it — doesn’t matter in the end. Maybe I should stick to movie recommendations.

Crowd Question #5:

Can someone recommend a better pick-me-up than caffeine?

When I ask this question, I’m thinking people will recommend herbal teas or something. Instead, they think I’m asking where to get amphetamines. Or meth. It’s terrible: Not only do I look like I’m trolling Twitter for drugs, but now everyone thinks I’m too lame to know where to get them. Fail.

Crowd Question #6:

What gym should I join?

Having recently quit my day job, I’ve lost access to the cheap, always-empty office gym I once enjoyed. I need something downtown — or maybe in South Philly — and I need something I can afford. I figure my friends on Facebook and Twitter — many of whom are also underpaid writers — are the perfect people to help me out.

I will say this: If the questions we ask reveal our personal truths, so do the answers we offer. And evidently, my friends and followers have more money than I thought. The most common suggestion is the Sporting Club at the Bellevue, which they make sound like a gym for the gods on Mount Olympus. I check it out online, but the site doesn’t list prices. I’ve known for a long time that when the price isn’t listed, I can’t afford it.

Another crowd pick, Philadelphia Sports Club, is slightly more my speed, but again, I wonder exactly how much my social media friends are making. I sift through all the suggestions and find two more possibilities — Sweat and 12th Street, both big, neither too expensive, and both within walking or jogging distance of my house. I take tours of them and settle on 12th Street — which is where even the barest minimum of my own research would have guided me immediately, without Twitter and the hours I spent researching its suggestions. I have to call this a crowdsourcing wash. Also, now I feel poor.

Crowd Question #7:

I threw my back out yesterday. Ice, heating pad, ibuprofen. Anything I’m missing?

I realize this makes me sound too old to even know what social media is, but I throw my back out one day putting on boots. One moment I’m dressing to go out, and the next I’m on the floor, unable to move. I know it’s not serious — this isn’t my first time — but I’m in a lot of pain. I can barely walk. I follow my usual regimen of ice, heat, OTC drugs. When my back doesn’t feel better after a day, I craft my tweet.