2544: Heart-Stopping Texts

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Heart-Stopping Texts
Was this your car? [looping 'image loading' animation]
Title text: Was this your car? [looping 'image loading' animation]


Text messages have become a ubiquitous form of communication in most countries, and have become a basic part of many people's everyday lives. Conversations over text frequently jump straight to the purpose of the communication, without salutation or prelude. Some texts, particularly when delivered without context, can carry implications that cause immediate anxiety.

"Out of the blue" is an English expression meaning "to appear in a sudden and unexpected fashion". 'The blue' alludes to the clear daylight sky. Something arriving/appearing/dropping/flying "out of the blue" has done so not just without warning, but without a reason for you not to have seen it (e.g. looming out of a foggy night), which implies that it's not just a surprise, but even the fact that you are getting surprised by something is surprising.

This comic lists texts that would be worrying to receive with no context, for a variety of reasons. It seems to suggest that sending these is a good way to prank someone; particularly the title text, where deliberately sending an animated loading icon seems like it couldn't be intended for any other purpose. The different messages are explained below.

Text Explanation
Did you forget what day it is? This implies that the recipient forgot some important event happening today. This could be an important day to a spouse or friend, and a relationship can be damaged by the recipient having forgotten. Or it could mean that the recipient failed to deliver on an important commitment scheduled for that day, which can create a variety of other problems.
I bet you're probably getting bombarded with texts right now, huh? This implies that something of major significance has happened, that would make many people want to communicate with the recipient. There are a lot of possibilities, many of which are negative. The non-specific nature of the text leaves the recipient wondering what has happened, and how bad it is.
Did you mean to post that to everyone? Implies that the recipient has made a public post (presumably on some social network, or via mass-text conversation) that was offensive or otherwise inappropriate to post publicly; so much so that the text sender is asking if they perhaps meant it to be forwarded to a more contained group or possibly not even revealed to anyone at all. This is a common occurrence as on many platforms it can be easy to accidentally post something with the wrong visibility or mis-click something private into a media post.
Is this your house? CNN is a popular news outlet in the United States. This text implies that the recipient's house has for some reason been mentioned (or probably photographed) in a CNN article. This would mean that a newsworthy event has occurred there, or at least nearby. Many newsworthy events are upsetting, possibly dangerous (eg. a fire, a natural disaster, a violent crime, etc). This might also imply a violation of privacy, as many people would not want to have a picture of their house on national news.

This particular link suggests that the recipient's house was featured in a CNN article from November 19, 2021, the day this comic was published. The next part of the link is the category of the story (e.g. "US", "world", "politics"), which in this case starts with the letter "S" -- either "sports" or "style", going by the top bar of CNN's website. On the plus side, it's probably not as consequential as one of the more prominent categories, but it would still be an unpleasant surprise to find one's house featured in the news.

You didn't click on any weird emails recently, did you? Phishing is the practice of sending fraudulent messages to someone in order to steal information (credentials, etc.) from them, infect them with malware, or otherwise perform some undesirable action. One overwhelmingly common form of this is getting people to click on hyperlinks in emails, which generally purport to lead somewhere reputable but instead lead to somewhere controlled by the sender.

This text implies something makes the sender think that the recipient has fallen victim to such an attack. It's common for the victim of such an attack to not be the first to discover it. For example, some attacks hijack the victim's email, and use it to bombard everyone in their contact list with further phishing attempts. If the sender of this text had received such an email, they might suspect an attack. If this has already happened, it's likely to cause major problems.

Can I call? While this is a seemingly benign and simple request, texting someone to ask if you can call is usually a sign that the conversation will be long and serious, and the sender wants to ensure that the other party is available for such a discussion. Many such situations are negative (ranging from a breakup to the death of a loved one), and there's a great deal of tension in knowing that something is serious, but not knowing what it is.
Wait, do you know Joe Rogan? How does he know your name? Joe Rogan is a public personality, best known for his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. This message implies that the recipient has been discussed by Rogan for some reason. Similarly to the CNN case, this is likely to cause worry about what possible circumstances would prompt this.

Joe Rogan has recently been in the news for his anti vaccine stance so people such as Randall, who believe in science, may not want to be associated with him.

Why are you trending on Twitter? Twitter is a social network, which – among other features – tracks and shows topics that are currently being discussed by a large number of users on the platform, or "trending". An individual trending across the entire network (unless that person is a public figure) is usually either because they're connected with a news story, or because something they did or wrote has gone viral. There are sufficiently many negative things that can cause such unexpected fame that hearing about it would be worrying.

Twitter in particular is known for frequently involving very heated discussion, and often even the targeting of individuals by mobs who perceive them to have done something wrong.

Was this your car? [looping 'image loading' animation] (title text) The past tense ('was') implies that your car no longer exists, with the animation additionally implying an image or a video of it being damaged or destroyed. In addition, it might take a long time for the receiver to realize that the media will never load, during which they will be worried about their car without knowing what happened to it.


[Comic heading:]
Most heart-stopping texts to receive out of the blue
[A collection of light gray text bubbles in two columns:]
Did you forget what day it is?
I bet you're probably getting bombarded with texts right now, huh?
Did you mean to post that to everyone?
Is this your house? cnn.com/2021/11/19/S...
You didn't click on any weird emails recently, did you?
Can I call?
Wait, do you know Joe Rogan? How does he know your name?
Why are you trending on Twitter?

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I've done a brief explanation of each message -- sorry if I've edit-conflicted anyone! I'm not at all familiar with Joe Rogan, so I might have missed some significance there. Esogalt (talk) 19:47, 19 November 2021 (UTC)

The title text is not about a looping video of the car. The text just contains the "image loading" indicator repeating, but never successfully loads the image. That's what makes it so disturbing -- you never actually see the car. Barmar (talk) 20:36, 19 November 2021 (UTC)

It might also indicate that the server(s) upon which the media is stored is being hammered by everyone else trying to watch 'your car' and whatever is happening to it. 22:08, 19 November 2021 (UTC)

I know it has been said of Twitter: "Every day on Twitter, one person is chosen as the 'main character'. Everyone's goal is not to have that happen to them." SpuriousCorrelation (talk) 21:14, 19 November 2021 (UTC)

What this "out of the blue" does mean? (I'm not native speaker of English) 21:45, 19 November 2021 (UTC)

'The blue' alludes to the clear daylight sky. Something arriving/appearing/dropping/flying "out of the blue" has appeared not just without warning, but there's no reason for you not to have seen it (e.g. looming out of a foggy night), which sort of implies that it's not just a surprise, but even the fact that you are getting surprised by somethng is surprising.
(Just to reinterject as author of this piece, I wrote the above/following Paras to Talk-level quality, not Explanation-level. Gratified someone copied this verbatim to the main article but I'd have definitely written it 'better' there. Something like "Out Of The Blue means to arrive totally unepectedly, as if somehow arriving entirely without warning from a cloudless sky <...yada yada yada>". But do put your own rhetoric stamp on it, whoever sets about any edit.) 10:26, 20 November 2021 (UTC)
I suppose "out of nowhere" or "out of thin air" might be a more understandable phrase, that might have a direct analogue in any other language/Anglophonic-culture-somehow-lacking-this-phrase.
A very similar phrase is "a bolt from the blue" (a lightning strike from clear skies), and maybe even what the above was conceptually shortened/borrowed from. I imagine some etymology site has the actual facts on this, but that'd be cheating. ;) 22:08, 19 November 2021 (UTC)
Oh yes, in Finnish is a phrase "Kuin salama kirkkaalta taivaalta' (like a ligtning strike from clear sky). First I assumed that this "out of blue" comes from typical sms/whatsapp/signal's speech bubble, but then I realized that there is no an unified color schemes in such apps. 14:37, 20 November 2021 (UTC)
As has been said, "Out of the blue" refers to an adverse event coming from a previously clear sky. My understanding (but feel free to correct me) is that in this precise form it has been coined by aerial combat (aka "dogfight") reports, a context in which getting the jump on an opponent (especially from above) provides a decisive advantage. An opponent appearing "out of the blue" in this context would be a most stressful situation indeed. 18:08, 21 November 2021 (UTC)

I think this is meant to show prank messages which one could send to someone to cause anxiety, rather than a selection of real ones. The "image loading animation" from the title text seals that, as it is a common prank message strategy to send a gif of just the loading animation to prey on the recipient's curiosity. At the very least, I think we should note the alternate interpretation. 22:50, 19 November 2021 (UTC)

Possible. But a media-playing app/widget/iframe/canvas/whatever tends to render something of its own while buffering, and it's easy to believe that this is that. So the intent of the comic could be various. 03:25, 21 November 2021 (UTC)

"Can I call?" is one that I use/recieve semi-regularly, and it's not very stressful. The main use for me is when one party is not too familiar with the other one's schedule. And yes, it'd be used when you're expecting longer conversation, but not necessarily a stressful one - for example, when working on the organisaton of an event and going though some finer details. 23:22, 19 November 2021 (UTC)

My mother did this just 9 days before this comic came out. With her, it's always 50:50 between "long" and "serious". That's in a way even more stressful, because I can never know which one it is. Fabian42 (talk) 18:46, 21 November 2021 (UTC)
"Can I call?" could also be a reference to today's communication culture of text messages, asynchronous communication and/or using modern "apps" instead of more traditional telephony service. I regularly observe younger people avoid directly interactive communication like phone or video calls (even via modern apps!), but sending text, voice or video messages instead, even in rapid succession, thus semi-interactive. It seems strange to me and looks like social shyness or what. I understand using text instead of voice as a less intrusive medium if you don't want to disturb someone with less-than-urgent communication, but taking time to record a voice or video message so the other person has to take time to listen or watch and then record and send a response seems like a total waste of time and suboptimal communication efficiency when interactive connection with virtually no lag is readily available. Sometimes I joke to my daughter: "Is your friend on Mars?" -- 10:58, 23 November 2021 (UTC)

"There's been an accident, when can you be here to confirm identification?". Also, "Can I call you" (or a variation) is easily my number 1 text message, because if I wanted it to be truly asynchronous I'd send an email and if it was a matter of true urgency I'd call without preamble. 17:29, 21 November 2021 (UTC)

I know someone asked in the comments, but do we really need the explanation for "out of the blue" outside the comments? This page is intended to explain xkcd comics, not commonly used idioms of the English language. Bischoff (talk) 10:16, 22 November 2021 (UTC)

  • If someone wanted to know, I don't see the problem in including that information. -- 19:29, 22 November 2021 (UTC)

The Joe Rogan avoidance, besides simple unwanted attention, would probably be about it being increasingly a major pseudo-science platform, not just an anti-vax stances (e.g. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/covid-19-health-and-nutrition-pseudoscience/science-vs-joe-rogan); especially considering the themes and audience of this comic.

About the CNN message, some listicles of "curses in foreign languages" (such as the one on Listverse) say (often with scant support) "may you see your house live on CNN" is a relatively modern curse born out of their obsessive coverage of bombings and missile strikes during the Kosovo conflict. as a result saying this (in the affected countries) was implying you wished someone's house would be struck by an errant air or artillery strike, which would result in it being shown on CNN. it's just obscure enough, and the kind of list that Randall would read, but marginal at best. 00:14, 1 December 2021 (UTC)