Tenn Words Update: Getting Personal

Jun 18, 2015

  In the month since we launched WUOT's Tenn Words project, we've received more than 400 responses to the question "What keeps you up at night?".

WUOT's Brittany Crocker has spent a great deal of time loading those responses into a spreadsheet, assigning various "topic" tags to each response and combing through the results so that we can identify any trends that might arise. 

In an earlier post, we compared those respondents who chose to take the question literally (ex. "loud dogs" or "my husband's snoring") to those who viewed it in a more figurative sense (ex. "The wastefulness of Americans"). 

As responses continue to arrive, we're noticing a similar division developing between those who choose to answer the question lightly or with humor and those who see it as an opportunity to share something deeply personal (remember, all the responses are anonymous).  

Among the lighter responses:  

  • Why weed is still illegal
  • Discovering the secrets of the universe, primarily from Youtube videos
  • Your mom
  • Not finishing my

The more personal answers included:

  • Being poor, disabled and without hope
  • The terrible fear that I am wasting my life
  • Will I ever truly be happy with him?
  • I don't feel love anymore. I don't even feel attraction.

The difference in tone is pretty obvious.  But here's something that makes that difference even more interesting:  the lighter responses were all collected at Suttree's High Gravity Tavern on a Thursday night, while the more personal answers came at various times via our web site.

It's not entirely surprising, but it's still fascinating to see how respondents tend to be more vulnerable and revealing in their answers when they're (presumably) alone with just a computer than when they're at the bar with friends or in some other openly social situation.  

Here's a more detailed, interactive look: 

You can visit the Tenn Words mobile wall Saturday, June 27 at the Kuumba Festival in Knoxville's Morningside Park.  Of course, you can always offer your perspective on our web site.  And if you want to track the responses we've received so far, check out our Instagram and Twitter feeds.