Unsolved Mysteries in the Age of Social Media


I just finished watching the first episode of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries.  Holy crap, it’s fantastic.  The intro to the show is the perfect mix of nostalgic and chilling, and the subtle glimpse of Robert Stack is next-level genius.  As a very long time fan, I was insanely pleased.

The first episode centers around the disappearance and apparent suicide of Rey Rivera in Baltimore, Maryland.  The gist of the story is that one day he received a phone call from the research company he works for and rushed out of his house.  Days later his body was found thrown from a roof, with fractures inconsistent with his fall and his cell phone and glasses unaffected and seemingly staged.  He worked for his best friend’s company, Stansberry Research.  The day his body was found the company issued a gag order on all employees and his best friend, Porter Stansberry has never cooperated with the police or given a statement.

After watching the episode I immediately wanted to know more.  So I did a search for Porter Stansberry on Twitter.  I wasn’t very surprised to find that I was late to the party.

This was when I realized the real difference between the Unsolved Mysteries of today and the Unsolved Mysteries of the past.  Sure, the format has changed quite a bit.  There is no host or narration.  The narrative is driven by interviews, reenactments, and archival footage.  Also, the hour-long episodes are focused on one single subject, and they are very thorough.  But the biggest difference since Robert Stack faded to black (and in a lot of ways since Farina’s short run only 10 years ago) is the state of the internet and the access that social media gives.

Now, I have watched the Rey Rivera episode and it’s obvious where the guilt in the case was leaning according to the show.  But I do not have any special information beyond what was presented and will not declare who is guilty.  I do think however that the access the internet gives to people curious about the case and people actually involved with the case is pretty amazing.  Within minutes of watching the episode, it was easy to find access to communicate with the organization that Rivera worked for, his boss and best friend since age 15, and the company podcast if you’re interested in learning more.

Porter Stansberry

Stansberry Research

Stansberry Investor Hour Podcast

I find that fascinating.  That is something that I would have never even considered possible when I was a young fan of the Stack series.  That show spun my young mind in all sorts of directions, but when it was done I just kind of crossed my fingers that a later episode would have an update.  Beyond finding the people and places implicated in the show, we also have access to article after article from the original sources from when the events happened. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/248991255/

This access is incredible.  But also consider the new access that people on the inside have.  The most interesting to me are whistleblowers and leaks.  It was easy for a company to gag an entire organization 14 years ago.  Sure, social media and the internet existed but they were not the same.  This is the day and age of whistleblowers and leaks and if there is anything worth hiding and a good person in the right position to find it, it can be found.  That prospect makes this age of Unsolved Mysteries incredibly compelling and I can’t wait to immerse myself into more of it.