#Footnotes is Rachelle Riddle's weekly Explainer column about what's going on beneath the surface of the world of gaming.
Last week during #E32017 a Twitch streamer went missing and the internet banded together to sound the alarm in order to find her. However, when she was found unharmed and never in any danger, Twitter users quickly turned on her. And so began a campaign of harassment and scrutiny on someone whose only fault was not telling her friends where she was.
Lauralania is a relatively well known Twitch streamer who was attending #E3 along with thousands of other gamers in the industry. When she failed to show up to scheduled panel, she had intended to speak at, her friends grew concerned. They hadn't seen her since the night before when she attended the #Twitch mixer party. Her social media accounts had gone silent, with her last activity on the way to the party. Understandably, they grew worried and then more concerned when she didn't answer any attempts at contact.
Someone put the word out on Twitter, figuring crowdsourcing had a good chance at offering information if anyone had happened to have seen her. It was immediately picked up, spread far and wide hoping to find her. 24 hours after Lauralania's last Tweet, she reappeared, apologizing for causing such widespread concern.
It turns out she was ok. She had gone to a casino, played Poker all night in an effort to just unplug for one day, and her phone had died so she couldn't contact anyone nor was aware of the commotion looking for her. The Tweets and pictures she took after the fact to prove it was her looked a little off, so her friends went to her hotel room to verify that she was the one posting and that she wasn't coerced. They confirmed on Twitter that she was indeed safe.
End of story right? Usually, this is the ideal outcome in a missing person's case: nobody's hurt, it was all just a big misunderstanding. But the internet had other plans. Outraged that they wasted their time caring about what, in the end, was nothing. They immediately began attacking her and trying to poke holes in her story. Because how dare she not be in danger after the internet made an effort.
And what did the internet do that was so exhausting? They retweeted the concerns and spread the word where it ended up on Reddit. Meanwhile, her friends were talking with E3 security, trying to get in touch with her, and filing a missing person's report.
Granted, vanishing abruptly without a word was irresponsible on Lauralania's part, regardless if she was overwhelmed or needing to get away from everything and unplug. But that doesn't mean she deserves harassment for not being kidnapped or assaulted. Her actions inconvenienced or hurt her friends and family, not Twitter.
Sadly this is not something that women are unaccustomed with. In a case where someone is missing, spreading the word hurts no one, and if she had actually been in danger, then we'd have been at fault for doing nothing.
How To Prevent It
There's nothing wrong with needing a day off or away from everything. But, even if this hadn't gotten as big as it did, she still worried her friends and family by disappearing so abruptly and being unable to contact them when at such a large event. Sexual assault is a real fear at large events or conventions where so many people are gathered.
Sadly, we can't do much about the internet outrage. But we can take steps to minimize false alarms or get help faster if you ever are in danger at a gaming convention or event.
- Have a check-in system between your friends or colleagues to keep in touch periodically.
- Use the buddy system, don't go anywhere alone.
- Keep charging cords and/or extra battery packs handy so you don't lose your lifeline to the outside world if your phone does die.
- Use the Companion App to let your friends know where you are or notify them quickly if you feel unsafe. Apple iPhones also have "Find Friends" app where you can sync your locations between each other.
How do you keep yourself safe at large events?