Feel like screaming into the void at the state of the world right now? A self-destructing website can help.
The website, thiswebsitewillselfdestruct.com, was designed by comic artist FemmeAndroid in April during the peak of Covid-19 infections in the U.S. as a place for the confused, lost, angry, or just bored to anonymously voice their thoughts in the form of a message to "Dear website..." The messages are then anonymously posted on the sited for all to read.
But there's a catch: if no one messages the website in a 24-hour period, it will self-destruct. Permanently.
So far though, that doesn't seem to be a problem, the site creator, who goes by the handle FemmeAndroid, tells Inverse. The site received over 15,000 messages in its first weekend, and FemmeAndroid says it continues to see high numbers of responses daily.
As of this past Sunday, FemmeAndroid announced in a Hacker News thread that the site had received 115,000 letters and been read over 15 million times.
"We get between 300 and a thousand responses a day, with some days spiking go over 20,000 letters. Each message has been read on average 100 times," FemmeAndroid tells Inverse. "We’ve had some amazing responses from Thailand, India , China, Japan, and many other countries around the world."
Born of a Game Jam — The website was originally born from an online challenge called a game jam, a hackathon-like event for videogames, to satisfy the prompt "Keep it Alive." FemmeAndroid tells Inverse that she decided this format could best satisfy that prompt will simultaneously providing a service to its visitors.
"We’d had a difficult couple months, and it seemed like people needed an outlet to just be honest about how they were doing."
"The site was kind of a response to Covid," says FemmeAndroid. "We’d had a difficult couple months, and it seemed like people needed an outlet to just be honest about how they were doing. I wanted to encourage some people to write down their feelings - I thought giving a bit of encouragement might have a positive effect."
FemmeAndroid tells Inverse that she hopes the site can give people a glimpse into the lives of others and help lift their own weight -- if only for a minute.
The website is warmly designed with sparse text and a count-down clock at the top ticking off the remaining seconds until the site explodes in a cloud of ones and zeros (in theory at least -- FemmeAndroid says on the Hacker News forum that she doesn't yet have a terminal sequence designed.) These two aspects of the site seem like they ought to be in juxtaposition with each other, but instead, the ephemeral nature of the page feels oddly comforting.
"If I go 24 hours without receiving a message, I’ll permanently self-destruct, and everything will be wiped from my database. That’s okay though," write FemmeAndroid on the landing page.
A jammed drawer of forgotten letters — When clicking through the randomized messages on the site, it feels almost like pulling open a jammed drawer in your new apartment to find forgotten letters from the tenants before you.
Some are brimming with hope:
Some are funny:
And some are sad:
FemmeAndroid told Motherboard in April that after receiving an influx of sad or suicidal messages to the site,l she added a "Feeling Down" button to the website landing page to direct visitors to mental health resources.
But, for the most part, FemmeAndroid says that responses have been positive. And with messages coming in from around the world, FemmeAndroid says it has given them an excuse to brush up on her language skills.
Together, these letters provide a glimpse into the complex lives of other internet patrons from around the world, harkening back to a time before Twitter feuds when the internet felt just a little bit smaller.
As for self-destructing, FemmeAndroid tells Inverse that while it's inevitable, it isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"I wanted its impermanence to incentivize people to write - if you know the message won't be backed up or kept around, I think you can be more honest with your feelings," says FemmeAndroid.