Is Annie96 real? An interview with WhatsApp story author Pascal Chatterjee
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The mysterious short story about a WhatsApp chat session has gone viral on Twitter and Reddit. While the online story’s final plot twist has sparked an intense debate on Reddit, countless Twitter users are inventing their own scenarios after Annie96 goes offline.

Unfolding like a typical WhatsApp chat session, the reader of „Annie96 is typing“ is invited to click to read the next messages in the chat session. The narrator’s introduction leads us to believe the chat session actually took place. While playing around with WhatsApp, I stumbled across a weird chat history between two people I don’t know. It scared the hell out of me. When I tried to find it again, the app crashed, and kept crashing. This mystery has led the question „Is Annie96 real?“ to trend on Twitter, as thousand of users debate the story’s authenticity.

WebMagazin speaks to „Annie96 is typing“ author Pascal Chatterjee about the meaning of the story and whether or not Annie is real.

WebMagazin: The story gives the reader the impression it really happened. Did it?

Chatterjee: Some people prefer to believe the introduction, which says that the conversation showed up suddenly in WhatsApp. Others think it’s a short story. All I can say is: it would be quite a big issue if the WhatsApp client leaked random chat histories to other users. And as someone pointed out on Twitter, you can’t actually „go offline“ from WhatsApp the way „Annie“ does at the end.

WM: The final plot twist leaves us wondering about the authenticity of online communication. Was this the purpose of the story for you?

Chatterjee: That’s exactly it. I find it pretty unsettling when I see spambots posting on Twitter or Facebook with human profile pictures – their pictures look human but you can tell from their writing that there’s no humanity in them, just heartless, opportunistic software. So in the story, I replaced the human Annie with a terrifying inhuman thing, to drive home the point that when you’re online, you never know who or what is actually messaging you.

WM: The story unfolds like a normal WhatsApp chat session. How did you come up with the technique of implementing this on your website?

Chatterjee: Stories in the form of letters have been around for a long time. More recently, some stories have been told in the form of emails, or even instant messages. Print media can’t make you wait to read new messages in the same way as real online communication. But when you publish a story on an interactive medium like the web, you can use simple Javascript to make the reader wait to see what happens next. You can also play with them once you know they’re scared.

If you read the story again, you’ll notice that the „annie96 is typing“ message only pops up at the most dramatic points of the story. When I know the reader really wants to progress, I make them wait to increase the tension. At two extremely tense moments, I use JavaScript and CSS to make the screen glitch, knowing that’s when the reader almost has their nose to the screen. And if you have certain Android phones which allow it, I make the phone vibrate as it glitches, which has apparently caused some readers to almost drop their phones.

The story was first published in March via the literary website storiesforyourscreen.com. Pascal tells us his website is accepting stories from the public at write@storiesforyourscreen.com.

„annie96 is typing is a hard story to follow, but it looks like the internet loves the format and the subject matter, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to try and write more stories like it.“

Meanwhile readers are still busy tweeting puns based on “Annie are you ok?” and “Annie get your gun!”, while other are inventing their own scenarios after Annie96 goes offline.


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