TORONTO – Shannon McKarney, a Hardwood Hill resident until 1986, never expected to garner national attention when she posted a video to her blog chronicling the social media life of someone she never met.
Her post, Everything We Leave Behind, shows tweets from a woman named Amanda as she finds out she is sick and what she does with her last days.
“I was not expecting this at all,” said McKarney. “It's exploded. And I think most people are having the same reaction I did: this is so sad, and so lovely and so thought provoking. I am amazed and glad that her words have such an impact on others.”
McKarney prepared the video for a BlissDom Canada conference, a social media conference for women, to show what people leave behind online.
“It used to be we'd find a dusty packet of letters in the attic to read about our grandmother's racy love life back in her youth. Now, we leave traces every single day.”
She decided to share it on her blog on Jan. 7, expecting only a few views.
It was picked up by BuzzFeed, the Toronto Star, the Ottawa Citizen, as well as others.
McKarney came across it while she was living in Ottawa last spring.
@TrappedAtMyDesk was receiving a lot of mentions that day, the day Amanda’s brother posted that she died.
McKarney realized they had interacted online, but she wasn’t following her.
“The story stayed with me, especially how she found out she was sick, quit her job, left her phone on her kitchen table and went travelling,” said McKarney. “Then she came home and put some personal stuff in order and left us with the words, be good to each other.”
She said she wishes she had paid better attention when Amanda was alive.
On her blog, McKarney posted that she doesn’t know if Amanda would’ve wanted her story told this way. She has tried unsuccessfully to get in contact with Amanda’s family.
She’s still trying, and intends to follow their wishes if they are reached, including removing the video if that’s what they want.
She has many things she’d like to say to Amanda’s family.
“I hope this amazing outpouring of emotion and goodwill towards Amanda's words gives them comfort; that I hope how people are seeing her story as so inspirational after she's gone reminds them that she left something lovely behind; and that maybe some lives are changed for the better because of her words, and that's a wonderful thing to imagine.”
McKarney has been asked if she believes the Twitter account is fake.
She acknowledges that it’s possible, but she doesn’t believe it is.
McKarney, a digital and event consultant and blogger, lives in Toronto with her family.