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In 2011, Jennifer Harris Set On Fire Her Best Friend’s House After Being Unfriended On Facebook

Jennifer Harris and the house. Image Source: Polk County Jail / Google
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Beware who you un-friend on Facebook – this could literally end up burning down your house

It occurred to me the other day: I have 1022 friends on Facebook.
This is by no means a big number in that context and most of my friends are sporting even bigger numbers than that. But think about it in the context of how we used to live just twenty years ago – everybody knew 20 to 50 people and saw regularly around 10 of those. Not very spectacular, but it allowed us to connect better with those ten. Meet them in person. Listen to them for real. Share experiences, instead of food photographs, which is what we do now.

It’s kind of crazy, if you ask me – everybody in the same virtual room (in this case – your wall) and everybody is having these half-assed relationships with everybody and watching carefully chosen life-snap pictures got to be a stand in for knowing what’s up with them. In sharing your happiness with someone that way a lot is lost in translation. Sharing your anger, or loss, or misery gets half-there, too. People tend to get in fights on Facebook. But while in the real world you can read into a person’s body language, tone of voice, apply a human contact, or just leave the room, virtual space doesn’t work like that – you never know how close a person is to the edge, you can’t read beyond the words they’re using. The only problem is that a fight which starts on Facebook can easily spill over on the street, or in your office.

Or in your home.

There are a ton of examples to that point, but my favorite is the feud that sparkled between Jenny Harris and Nikki Rasmussen and almost ended up burning down Nikki’s house, not to mention killing her and her husband in the process.

But let’s go back to the beginning:

The story took place in Des Moines, IA, back in 2011. Jennifer Christine Harris (30 then) was a long-time friends with Nikki Rasmussen. She was even asked to be a maid of honor at Rasmussen’s wedding. So it’s safe to say those two considered each other close.

Here’s an assumption on my part (and I’m purely basing that on what I’ve seen happening to other people): I think that perhaps somewhere along the way the two women started to drift apart. They never lost touch, of course (at least not in Facebook terms), but between her job and family, Nikki had less and less time to spend with Jenn.

This happens all the time – your friend marries, gets into his or her career and it’s the beginning of the end in your relationship as you know it. Some people are having trouble getting used to a thing like that and a sense of abandonment slowly starts creeping into what used to be a cloudless friendship.

My guess is that a process like that took place between Nikki and Jen. I also think that Jennifer Harris was lonely in her private life (more on that why I think so – later). I don’t know If she was in a relationship at that point in time, but I guess not. What I know for sure is that she wanted to get closer with Nikki again and she had the perfect occasion – her birthday was coming up. So one day she chatted with her BFF and asked her if to organize the event, since Nikki was way better in that sort of thing. Nikki, of course, agreed (because why not) and proceeded to organize a Facebook event with the list of names Jane gave her. She (Nikki) set the date, created the Facebook group and started contacting the intended guests. Some of them flat-out declined, expressing it with a blunt “Thank you, but no” and “Sorry, I’ve previous engagements” – you know, the kind of answers people give when they want to be polite, but not really.

As the date for the birthday party approached, it got worse. People who earlier have agreed to attend, started dropping out from the group, one by one, bleeding the future party out. And this is what I meant earlier when I stated that I thought Jennifer Harris to be a lonely person – the closer the date got, the fewer people shared that Facebook group. This has a social element to it, too – people usually hoard towards something, or away from it, depending on what the surrounding crowd is doing – it’s mass psychology in a nutshell.

That must have really stung Jennifer. It’s one thing to feel alone and not to have a lot of people to go out with. It’s quite another for everybody you know on Facebook to witness it. This was a slow catastrophe, in my opinion. What do you do in a situation like that? Meditate on your relationships? Think hard about who you are and why people treat you like that? Or self-analyze, in order to change what doesn’t work about you? Yeah – all of those are valid options in moments like these.

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But then again – there’s another, more basic reaction, a purely ego-driven defense mechanism – it assures you that you don’t have a problem at all and it’s the outside world that’s F-d up.
So it’s no surprise that Jennifer accused Nikki for not being able to organize a simple party. She accused her of being self-absorbed and not a real friend any more. And those were among the nicest things she said, and she had a lot to say.

Oh, did I used the word “say”?

My bad. I meant ‘posted’. As in ‘on Nikki’s Facebook wall’.

You can see where this is going, right? Nikki, who at this point felt like the last of the Mohicans when it came to Jen, gave up trying to be nice and fought back, again – on Facebook, for everyone to see. In for a penny – in for a pound. From there, things escalated quickly and as violent as Facebook can ever get.
In the end Nikki decided she didn’t want to have anything to do with Jennifer anymore and did what she wanted to do for a long time – she unfriended her.

It’s a strange feeling, being unfriended on Facebook.
We’re so deep in the Matrix now, that when something like this happens, it feels like you’ve been deleted from someone’s life.
In a way, it’s a death sentence for your relationship with that person and the worst part is they didn’t even give you a right for last words.

Well, turns out Jennifer Harris’ last words were really scorching.

On the 27th of October, around 1 A.M. the Rasmussens woke up with the sensation of something burning. They were right – their garage was set ablaze.

By the time the couple managed to exit their house safely, the garage fire was getting bigger and closing in on the house itself. Thanks to a timely placed call to the police and the fire department, the house didn’t burn down. When the authorities asked their favorite question “Can you think of someone who might have a grudge against you, ma’am?”, Nikki and her husband Jim answered immediately and in unison: It’s Jennifer Harris.

The police quickly rounded up Harris and for all intents and purposes, she wrote a confession that very night. For a time she then resided in Polk County Jail, with a bond set at $100,000.

Jennifer Harris was not an evil criminal mind, or even someone who thought she’d get away with what she did. She was just an out-of-control sad and lonely person with some severe issues and no one noticed any of that.

Could it be, it was because all of her communication was done on Facebook, where
human interaction goes to die and where words and meanings get so twisted, that they hardly mean what they used to?

I don’t know, but it’s probably worth a google search.

H/T – Source



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