If you’ve ever been poked firmly with a pencil, you probably still have the scar to prove it. And a recent viral thread on Twitter has revealed you’re not alone – the dots seem to be everywhere these days. But what are these little black dots that are popping up all about?
The internet has a fantastic way of bringing many people from different walks of life together. Thanks to the advent of social media, we can now talk freely about our experiences. United by these special, shared elements, we can bond with people all over the world who’ve been through similar things.
Nowadays, it’s not out of the ordinary from people to take to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to share their dating woes. Similarly, people often take to social media to divulge the difficulties of parenting and the funny things that their babies get up to. And opening up about worries from work online is commonplace.
Of course, sharing our stories and experiences with others is not a new phenomenon. Such social interchanges have been going on for many centuries. And the more emotive a topic is, the more inclined we feel to tell others. The new technology just makes it quicker to bring our stories to others.
According to a study by Professor Jonah Berger, an expert in viral marketing, feelings such as amusement or anger are more likely to influence someone to share something online. That’s because they’re the emotions that arouse our brains the most. He says, “If something makes you angry as opposed to sad, for example, you’re more likely to share it with your family and friends because you’re fired up.”
Another arousing feeling is fear. As a result, it may come as no surprise that people often turn to social media for medical advice. In fact, a 2012 poll by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that a third of adults quizzed turned to social media to share symptoms or look for medical advice.
With this in mind, in January 2019 Twitter user Los_Writer took to the social media site with an enquiry about an unusual ailment that had afflicted him. And he was eager to connect with others who may have been through the same thing. You see, something very strange had happened to him.
In his tweet, Los_Writer wrote, “Hello. I’m looking for people who have lead from their pencil stuck inside their bodies.” And while at first their request seemed fairly unusual, the mass of responses they received told an altogether different story. Indeed, it turned out that this is a common affliction.
It appeared that there were many people with traces of pencil graphite imprinted into their skin. What’s more, lots of sufferers wanted to share the stories behind their markings with the community on Twitter. And there were plenty of pictures as proof, in case there was any doubt that people really had suffered this indignity.
As the conversation got under way, it appeared that many people had lived with their pencil wounds in isolation. They had kept their silence on the matter because they had always believed they were alone. But the truth was there were lots of individuals in the same boat as them.
Sharing a photograph of a greyish dot on his palm, trentpawling10 wrote, “Swore I was the only one.” The tweeter couldn’t have been more wrong. Because as it turned out, as Los_Writer’s call for people who had pencil tattoos to come forward gathered momentum, dozens of people answered them with their stories.
Tweeting his own tale, James Merlot revealed that he had received his pencil mark in “fourth grade,” when he had been reaching into the desk.” He added that he had always “thought he was alone” in his infliction, before praising the community he had found himself part of thanks to Los_Writer.
Another Twitter user, going by the name nanatat07, revealed that she had been scarred by a pencil on her “right thumb.” And it seems that she too was surprised by the sheer amount of people coming forward with similar marks. “I didn’t know this was a common thing,” she wrote.
And while hands seemed like the most obvious places to fall victim to a pencil mark, it turned out that other parts of the body had been marked too. Jen White had somehow managed to tattoo her leg. As a result, she was eager for her story to be heard.
Writing in response to Los_Writer’s original tweet, White said, “IT’S MY TIME TO SHINE!” She’d got her mark while, “Getting out of [her] aunt’s car when [she] was five or so.” White explained, “There was a pencil sticking up out of the seat. For some reason it’s been there since.”
Another person who’d been marked on the limbs was toaste_oven. However, his story was slightly more harrowing than White’s. “I was sitting next to this boy I had a crush on and he stabbed me in my leg with his pencil after I laughed when he fell off his seat,” he explained.
And one of the worst things about toaste_oven’s ordeal was that the interaction didn’t even lead to any romance. Speaking of his former school crush, the twitter user revealed the sad truth. He wrote, “The last thing I’ve heard him say about me was that, if he had the chance, he’d kill me.”
Samantha Pittman also received her pencil tattoo through no fault of her own. Moreover, she wasn’t afraid to name names of the guilty party. “Janet Spann stabbed me with a pencil in third grade,” Pittman revealed. And to make matters worse, it seems that there was no bad outcome for Janet. Pittman wrote, “[Spann] didn’t get in trouble.”
After she had read the reaction to Los_Writer’s post, Anahyelle was also empowered to share the name of her alleged attacker. She shared the reason for her tweet by writing, “I have lead in my right knee.” Then she revealed, “This girl named Marysol stabbed me in fifth grade for reasons I can’t remember.”
As comments continued to stream in, one curious coincidence came to light. It seems that lead tattoos might run in the family. Pastahellraiser revealed that he had a pencil mark on his right knee. “My dad also has pencil lead in his right knee,” he revealed. However, he confirmed, “It is not genetic.”
It also appeared that knees had taken their fair share of pencil punctures over the years, which was something Megan Moriarty knew all too well. “Got stabbed with a pencil, lead broke off, knee was bleeding and my gym teacher wouldn’t let me go to the nurse. Still blame her,” she confessed.
Where some people were keen to point the finger, others shared stories of horrific accidents. Caitlin Cox, who sports a mark on her left leg said, “13-year-old me accidentally rammed a pencil THROUGH MY JEANS into my leg when trying to move a desk. [No] idea how it happened, honestly.”
Sharing the story behind her own scar, Amanda wrote, “Mine’s in my chin from bouncing the eraser off my face but then accidentally flipping it over and stabbing myself during math.” However, the truth of her story remained uncertain, given that she failed to upload any evidence of the mark.
On top of these relatively minor pencil mishaps, there were also some respondents to the thread who had suffered what had come too close for comfort to life-changing injuries. Riley Sletten revealed a small black dot near to his temple. Explaining what happened, he simply put, “Eighth grade… Running with a pencil.”
Meanwhile, Ashley Serafin’s injury almost cost her the use of her eyes. Posting a picture that showed a pencil mark that lay near her inner eye, she said, “My sister threw a pencil at me when I was in third grade, and [I] was just an inch away from being blind.”
And above and beyond this happening, there were even more worrying eye injuries that had come dangerously close to damaging people’s sight. Lara Waucaush had one such story, but she could luckily see the funny side to her experience. “Got it right in the eye AHHAHAHA,” she posted on Twitter.
Incredibly, one Twitter user could outdo even Waucaush’s ocular mishap. You see, Cameron Stockbridge sported a black mark right on his actual eyeball. “In fifth grade I stabbed myself in the eye while trying to take a gripper off my pencil,” he explained, telling the world about his toe-curling injury.
But while some pencil marks came about by accident, and some were deliberate, others had been self-inflicted. Samuel Hepola revealed that he had made his own tattoo in a moment of dissatisfaction. And he’d lived with a reminder of his frustration with the evidently difficult multiplying he’d been doing ever since.
Sharing his story about the unfortunate incident, Hapola wrote, “I got frustrated while practicing single digit multiplication in third grade and decided to slam my head on the table.” But there was something there that left him with a reminder. He wrote, “However, I hit my pencil that was sticking point up. It’s still here 11 years later.”
Given the hype Los_Writer had managed to create on Twitter, people wanted to see his own pencil tat. And Los_Writer didn’t shy away from his moment of glory. Posting a photograph of his hand, Los_Writer later explained, “A few people have asked to see mine so here it is. I’m a right palmer.”
Amazingly, in a freak twist of fate, many people sported markings in the exact same spot. And they weren’t slow in letting Los_Writer know all about it. “I’ve got some in my right hand too,” Kaci wrote, adding, “OMG we’re twins!” Meanwhile, emilysarahj said, “You can’t see it well but right palmers unite!”
No matter how they’d gotten their inkings, some people were wearing them as a badge of honor – or at the very least some kind of initiation. “Still have a pencil mark from where I got stabbed in fifth grade,” Emily Hogan Thomas wrote. “Not how I envisioned my first tattoo.”
Twitter user africanmio echoed Thomas’ sentiments, seeing her stabbing as her entrance into the world of skin art. She said, “I got stabbed by a pencil 12 years ago and the graphite is still there haha #firsttattoo.” And according to science, the girls aren’t wrong to compare their markings to real inkings.
According to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Fayne Frey, permanent marks left by a pencil impact are known as “traumatic tattoos.” And Frey was able to reveal something of these tattoos’ nature. In January 2019 Frey told Today, “They are permanent stains that remain in the skin just like the tattoos applied with oxide inks.”
Unlike modern tattoo machines, which fire ink into the body, pencils deposit small particles of carbon into the dermis. This is the layer of the skin that lies beneath the epidermis. Because the cells that form the dermis are stable, the markings stay in place forever, though they can fade.
In exactly the same way as tattoos made from ink, pencil markings can be erased with the help of a laser. But Frey warned that this might not be straightforward. She pointed out that the effectiveness of laser treatment depended upon “the material causing the tattoo, the depth, how long the tattoo’s been present.”
In days gone by, pencil tattoos may have been slightly more dangerous. That’s because the implements used to contain lead – a poisonous chemical that can cause damage to the nervous system. However, those days are gone, and today we made pencils from graphite, which is not toxic, being just a form of carbon.
So, nowadays, pencil markings are mostly harmless. Nevertheless, it’s never really a good idea to puncture the skin without taking precautions first. That’s because there are other dangers that you might become liable to. “The main risk is really infection,” Dr. Cameron Rokhsar, founding dermatologist at the New York Cosmetic, Skin & Laser Surgery Center, revealed.
Rokhsar had some counsel for those people who had “tattooed” themselves with a pencil. He advised them that it was best to wash the affected area “with soap and water… and put antibiotic ointment on it.” However, he added that people who’ve had their markings for years were probably safe from infection.
Furthermore, Rokhsar really did know what he was talking about. It turned out he was speaking from personal experience. “When I was seven years old, my cousin stabbed me with a pencil in my arm, and the pencil broke in my arm,” he revealed. “I still have it; I still have that area of pigmentation.”