On Saturday, August 4, 2012, @ZombieHeadlines decided to try an experiment using Twitter. The idea was to test the theory of how fast a zombie virus could spread. By composing a specific tweet, the first “bite” would be initiated and anyone who read the tweet would become “infected” with the hypothetical virus. Then, anyone who retweeted the message would perpetuate the experiment by acting as a hypothetical zombie as well.
The initial tweet was sent at 9:30 PM Saturday night. It read:
An experiment: If you read this, you are now a zombie. RT and see how fast and how far the epidemic spreads.
The logic behind the experiment is nothing new. It is the same way internet memes are perpetuated and how rumors go viral online everyday. But, by testing the hypothetical spread of a zombie outbreak, the “social” aspect of a viral outbreak could be observed.
Of course, any resulting data would only be a rough estimate and could never be quantified with any precision due to the nature of social media BUT, those are the same challenges that first responders, scientists, and governments would face during a REAL zombie virus outbreak. Watching trends and analyzing scattered, incomplete data would very likely be the only ways to track an actual zombie apocalypse.
The results were slow at first but began to accellerate rapidly. Ten minutes after the first “bite” or tweet ZombieHeadlines tweeted:
Only 3 zombies in 10 minutes? Unbelievable!
But half an hour later, the experimental virus was already across the Atlantic Ocean in England:
Just over a dozen zombies now. Still mostly in the U.S. but one In the U.K. The experimental outbreak is already transatlantic
The fake virus then began to gain momentum rapidly and within an hour was actually going viral.
1 hour: Experimental epidemic is from Salt Lake City UT to NY. And has shown up in West Yorkshire, England and in Several Cities in Canada
By the second hour, the rate of transmission was over one zombie per minute.
Only two hours in and a new zombie about every 50 seconds. WOW!
At the time of this blog entry, less than 24 hours since the first experimental “bite” / tweet, there are already thousands of zombies in dozens of countries. The hastag #ZombieTag was added to help track the experiment but, even with that addition, it is almost impossible to determine the scope of the social contagion. There has been no decision on how long the experiment will run but updates will be posted as it continues to unfold.