Why I Left
Reviewed by: Matt P., Miriam Moster, and Rachel Dixon
Review started: April 12, 2021
Review finished: April 29, 2021
Data and Sources
- Nearly 15,000 pin-dropped locations on a map along with a brief note input by individuals who left the Mormon faith on why they left
- The sources are not changed. The user views and interacts with and creates the primary source.
- Some sort of text analysis is going on to give you the frequency of words.
- The website is a single page: a Google map that the viewer can interact with as they would a typical map, zooming in and out, searching in the search bar for specific locations, and dragging to different locations.
- This map is populated with thousands of dropped pins placed by users who left the Mormon faith, accompanied by the reason they left.
- The dropped pins are little faces which when clicked on bring up the text that had been input with it. In the bottom right is a “+” symbol for individuals to add a pin of their own. The top right corner lists the total number of pins and when you click on it gives you the frequency of the most popular words in people’s reasons for leaving.
Digital Tools Used to Build It
- Heroku platform as a service
- Google Maps
- Unidentified text analysis tool
The Why I Left project is a great example of a “grassroots archive” or “citizen-led archive” (for more on this see Baines, 2020). It was started by an anonymous ex-Mormon who shared his project in a popular ex-Mormon Reddit. Ex-Mormons drop a pin on the map along with the reason they left the Mormon faith. The site developer’s goal is to help “others near them see that they are not alone and to see that the reasons for people leaving are varied and real.”
This map was originally built on Parse, but the platform shut down, and the developers switched over to Heroku. This speaks of the importance of having a site manager who can relocate the site and ensure its longevity in the face of online apps and platforms becoming obsolete.
Though the dropped pins are in all parts of the world, the language used is English. It seems as though those in non-English speaking countries were placed by English speakers who might have moved to those areas on religious missions.
In contrast to scholarly projects, this citizen-led archive is not heavily moderated (or perhaps not moderated at all). Posts are not vetted to be sure they are legitimate. For instance, a dropped pin in North Korea reads:
Joseph Smith could never beat Kim Jong-un in bowling, golf oOR scripyure [sic] translation. Our premier could write a fictional book WAY better than this huckster from 19th century New York.
This project can be a great model for other ex-religious groups. The experience of leaving a religion can be isolating, and questioners, especially in the early stages, often have no one with whom to discuss their questions and concerns. Sites like this one provide questioners with the assurance that there is a larger community of people who think and question like they do.
Baines, J. (2020). Archiving. In Baker, M., Blaagaard, B., Jones, H. & Pérez-González, L., Routledge encyclopedia of citizen media. Routledge.