Love is blind, and so is online outrage.
That’s how a simple story about a dude at Blizzcon looking for a missed connection turned into a clusterf—k of gender-politics accusations.
It all began when Kyle Wright posted on Reddit’s Overwatch subreddit as a way to make contact with a Tracer cosplayer he met at Blizzcon. They made a brief connection at an IHOP but Kyle forgot to ask her name or number, so he made a post online to see if she was out there and was interested in contacting him.
Totally not a big deal. These missed connections posts happen all the time on the internet with little fanfare.
Kyle’s post, however, went viral and inspired the #helpkylefindtracer hashtag, with the Overwatch community uniting to make the connection happen.
— tacobellrestroom (@tacobelresroom) November 7, 2016
It hit the fan when the gaming site Polygon picked up the story and ran it. The original story hammed up how Kyle felt about the mystery Tracer and implied that he was enlisting the Overwatch community to track her down. Polygon never contacted Kyle before writing the story.
“[The article] promotes this perverse twisted love story that doesn’t exist, ” Kyle said. “If I read it without reading the original post, I’d think it was creepy.”
Polygon’s hypersensitive audience then freaked out on social media because they felt the story was promoting stalking.
@Polygon Yes, u include a line that acknowledges that maybe Tracer doesn't want the attention. But u share the hashtag. Ur dek encourages it
— Michelle Ehrhardt (@ChelleEhrhardt) November 8, 2016
@Polygon this is not okay on many levels. Please remove this tweet and retract because YOU ARE PUTTING A GIRL IN DANGER.
— Leah Rose (@leahroseFTW) November 8, 2016
@Polygon Polygon i love you most of the time but this is gross, creepy, and downright irresponsible of you to publish
— Local Idiot (@ChieShadownaka) November 8, 2016
Gross! The Facebook page was equally uncompromising.
The negative backlash led to Kyle being targeted personally on Reddit and Twitter with waves of harassment. People were calling him a creep along with traditional “kill yourself” style internet hate.
“All the negativity started with Polygon,” Kyle said. “That Polygon article promotes stalker behavior.
Polygon changed their story after the criticism. The original story had phrases like “head over heels” and “can’t stop thinking about,” which Kyle said vastly overstated his feelings toward the Tracer cosplayer.
The updated story took out the romantic phrasing and the emphasis on using the power of the internet to find the girl.
Kyle updated his own post to say he does not want any internet sleuths searching out this girl.
“I appreciate what everyone’s doing, but I’m not about stalking or harassment,” he wrote. “If she wants to contact me that’s up to her #HelpKyleFindTracer”
Kyle said the harassment and death threats have kept him up at night, as well as dampened the memories of a great first time at Blizzcon.
“The people who take it as a simple thing, I’m glad that I could give that to them,” Kyle said. “But stalker behavior is not okay, and I hope they can hear what I’m saying and not someone’s twisting of the truth.”