Twitter's Response to Lauralania Is More Concerning Than Her Actual Disappearance

All the rabble about Lauralania's so-called "disappearance" has deeper ramifications than anyone might realize.

Almost anyone who’s been paying attention to Twitter or Reddit during E3 has heard about the Lauralania drama by now. Yesterday afternoon, her roommate Undrea posted an inquiry on Twitter as to Lauralania’s whereabouts after she apparently disappeared from the Twitch mixer at E3 and missed several panels/appointments the next day -- and what followed was a 12-hour feeding frenzy of conflicting information, “last seen” reports, conspiracy theories, and all manner of speculation.

Early this morning, after nearly 24 hours without contacting any friends/family or posting on social media, Lauralania (aka Tia Zimmerman) finally tweeted to confirm her safety -- saying that her phone had died and she’d been at a casino playing poker. Though this was first suspected to be some sort of hack, close friends confirmed shortly after that they’d spoken with Lauralania personally, and she was safe and sound.

But rather than celebrating a happy ending and chalking it up to a few poor judgement calls, the internet has exploded all over again with demands for the “truth”, accusations of an affair, and all sorts of theories about where Lauralania really was and what she was actually doing -- or why she was doing it.

Regardless of what you think about the whole debacle, there’s something that needs to be said about the implications that something like this has for other people -- especially for other women (which I’ll elaborate on below) -- who are embedded in this industry. Because hoax or not, intentional or not, the Lauralania saga sets a dangerous precedent for how people respond the next time something like this happens.

What Actually Went Down? Frankly, Nothing.

A minor celebrity went MIA for around 24 hours, and close friends (rightfully) took to the internet to try and track her down out of a legitimate concern for her safety. A small portion of Twitter and reddit did their best to help the cause. But for the most part, the internet simply sunk its teeth into some fresh drama and started spinning up all sorts of crackpot ideas about what really happened.

And once Lauralania popped up and confirmed that she’d simply decided to unplug and shirk some appointments to play poker, those people found it even more suspect and started grilling her about everything from her whereabouts to why she had “sex hair” in a video she posted. Some went so far as to use video stills to map out the actual location in which her video was shot and raise questions about why she was in such a rundown area of L.A. One Twitter user even demanded the receipts or ATM records from her visit to the casino.

It’s worth noting here that this isn’t the first time an industry personality has vanished at an event. A few years back, LoL player Trick2G disappeared for nearly 48 hours and missed a flight before he was found safely sleeping off a hangover in a friend’s hotel room. But when he was found, no one got upset that he was just really messed up and hadn’t actually been victimized in some way. No one demanded answers about what he’d really been doing. They didn’t ask for paper proof of his whereabouts. They sure as hell didn’t put together an entire spreadsheet of every tweet he made and where he made it like they did with Lauralania. So it’s hard to imagine that all the fuss has absolutely nothing to do with her being a pretty girl.

Those watching the drama and getting involved essentially fall into three different camps. One thinks the whole thing was just a legit decision that Lauralania has been honest about and otherwise shouldn’t have to answer for. Another thinks she went on a total bender and probably cheated on her significant other, then tried to do damage control after coming to her senses. The last camp thinks it’s all just a means to drum up drama and attention that will ultimately bring her further into the limelight and increase her following on Twitch -- considering that it’s already earned her about 75,000 new Twitter followers since the search for her began.

It Doesn't Matter What Lauralania Did or Didn't Do. But How This is Shaping Our Perspective Does.

No matter what Lauralania was up to while she was MIA, she doesn’t owe any sort of explanation to her fanbase. She’s an adult woman who can make the choices she wants to make. If she wants to unplug, that’s her prerogative. If she wants to play poker all night while people worry, she can do that, too. What really went down -- and all the panic that ensued -- is really between Lauraliana and the close circle of people who were actually looking for her out of concern for her safety. Everything else is just rabble.

What does matter -- and frankly matters a lot more than the actual events of this whole thing -- is how all this needless drama could adversely affect the safety of others in a legitimately panic-worthy situation in the future.

It’s well-documented that violent and sexual crimes happen with unfortunate frequency at events like E3 and PAX -- and they happen disproportionately to women. From creepshots to full-blown harassment and assault, there are numerous accounts of unwarranted and illegal sexual attention being directed at women in the games industry -- and they’re coming from all sorts of people, from booth girls and streamers to journalists and PR managers. A few years ago, the issue reached such critical condition at E3 that it was referred to as “creepy-rapey-E3” among certain circles.

Most women in this industry have dealt with such behaviors in one form or another. I know I have, and so has nearly every woman in the gaming world with whom I’ve discussed the issue. It’s horrible, it’s inexcusable, and it’s very, very real. (And yes, I’m aware that it happens to men, too. But the ratios of women who are victimized are too high to ignore.)

Concern over this reality is what led fellow streamer Ashleeeean to make several Twitter appeals, as she revealed in series of Tweets released after the Lauralania incident was settled. Being a survivor of sexual assault herself, she wanted to do everything possible to make sure that it wasn’t happening to someone else.

But because of all the drama and controversy that arose around the circumstances of Lauralania’s temporary absence, that legitimate concern has been overshadowed by people who are angry that the streamer “fooled” everyone into worrying about her -- with some going so far as to say that this is why women are a bane to the gaming industry.

Nothing happened to Lauralania, and that’s a good thing (regardless of how disappointed Twitter is that the truth wasn’t more interesting). But something awful could have happened -- and unfortunately will happen to someone else. And sadly, a public hubbub like this is going to jade a lot of people into not taking things like this seriously when they happen further down the line. That’s really bad news for the person who actually does go missing or needs help.

This whole debacle began as a justified investigation into someone’s well-being, where Twitter was in part a valuable tool for gathering information from people who wouldn’t have been accessible otherwise. But as the drama grew -- and even after Lauralania was confirmed safe -- Twitter turned it into a case of the girl who cried wolf, seemingly upset that the streamer wasn’t found in a ditch somewhere. Many have expressed gratitude that she’s alright, but many more have expressed outrage that they ever got worried in the first place, and are demanding justification for their “wasted” concern over a cute girl who didn’t actually get kidnapped, raped, or murdered.

I shudder to think of what that means for the next person who really does encounter a wolf at events like this.

Rather than continually berating the actions of an adult woman or bellyaching about how we got all concerned “for nothing”, maybe those energies are better spent having a conversation about the underlying issues that made this whole situation so worrisome in the first place. Maybe we start thinking about how to help the next person before they vanish, or how we can create a culture in this industry (and especially) at these events where everyone looks out for each other so there isn’t needless cause for concern.

Just because one disappearance saga had a “happy” ending doesn’t mean the next one will. And when that happens, here’s hoping useless rabble like what’s gone down today doesn’t drown out help signals for someone who legitimately needs it.

Published Jun. 16th 2017

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