Once upon a time, I followed someone on Twitter. This wasn’t someone I knew in real life, just a fellow Torontonian.
We had conversed a few times around the Twitter water cooler, but that was about it.
I struck me late Sunday that I hadn’t seen any tweets from this person for some time. I punched in her Twitter handle, and got a “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” message.
But I also Googled her handle (and tried several other tricks), and no trace.
Twitter only allows me to to scroll back 3,200 tweets. One exchange we had about Russian men occurred back in March, which is probably more than 3,200 tweets ago.
People come and go on Twitter (think of it as a party where you mingle, make small talk and move on). People often get started but stall out and let their accounts go dormant. But this is the first time I’ve come across someone who once seemed to exist and now I can’t find an online trace of them.
If you cancel your Twitter account, do your tweets disappear? Do they similarly disappear from Google?
On one level, this is similar to how I felt back in first-year university. You make casual friends with a deskmate, then one day they don’t come to class — and then it soon becomes apparent they’re gone forever. I don’t know about you, but first-year chemistry felt like life in a war zone.
In this case, it was a completely virtual acquaintanceship. I can’t say it’s a sense of emotional loss, because it’s not someone I ever knew other than as a minor character in my online life. That being said, I do hope my one-time Twitter buddy is okay, and that her disappearance is just a choice she made to step back from the Twitter arena or to otherwise totally reinvent.
I do think it’s an intriguing mystery that conjures up existential questions. I thought through Google, we lived forever — or at least evidence of our online existence would persist. That might not be true.
As a result, I feel slightly more mortal than I did before this post.
I was chatting about this on the way home with a colleague, and he said, “Why don’t you try Bing?” — the Microsoft search engine.
So I did.
I found a blog likely written by the person in question, with the last update coming on Oct. 29.
It would appear she just isn’t posting to Twitter under her old Twitter name, although it forms the URL of her blog. There is no link from the blog to a current Twitter account.
An important lesson to learn here is that Google is not God, and is not the definitive, omniscient repository of all knowledge about every entity in the universe.
Bing is. :)
Here’s two comments I made on Facebook:
- Ha, ha! It was good to solve the mystery, but again, it was an interesting lesson in the emphemeral, fractured nature of life in the virtual sphere.
- … Life’s also fickle in the real world. :)