A warning to those who seek out tidy resolutions at the end of their Internet reading. This is a mystery tale without an answer. Without a moral. Some might say, without a point.
But I am going to narrate it anyway, for your “Twitter is weird” files, and also because Mexican pop star Dulce Maria perhaps does not enjoy the American press coverage she deserves.
The story began last Friday, when I received an email from a colleague with the subject line: “what the h is this.” He’d found a doppelganger of my Twitter account, @xwaldie, named @xwaldiex, who was tweeting carbon copies of my tweets a few days after I’d tweeted them. I had mentioned my colleague in a post, and @xwaldiex’s reproduction of that post showed up in his notifications.
“I should probably just ignore, right?” I asked him. (He knows way more about technology and Internet citizenship than I do.) We agreed that that would be best. This impersonating person or bot or 13-year-old Ukrainian facsimile wasn’t doing any harm and, in any case, the account had fewer than 100 followers, many of whom seemed potentially mechanized themselves.
A few hours later, I got another, far less blasé email from my colleague. “OH MY GOD THEY’RE MULTIPLYING,” he wrote, providing a link to an @xwaldiej, who was also manually reconstructing my tweets. And then he found @xwaldiee. When I tried appending the 26 letters of the alphabet to my handle in succession, I discovered the following identity spores, all of which seemed to exist solely to replicate the contents of my (TBH, kind of boring) Twitter feed (but please follow me anyway):
It was all very perplexing. Were the omissions significant? Why no “c” or “d”? Was “@xwaldier” a veiled insult, as in “I am more xwaldie than you?” Where was the plural, @xwaldies, which would seem the logical or thematic choice?
The weirdest part, though, was the accounts’ obsession with a glamorous Latin American chanteuse by the name of Dulce Maria. (Her real Twitter page is here.) One spinoff was called “Dulce Maria Music.” “Dulce Martin,” read another. The descriptions—“I was not designed to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion and dance to my own step” and “Dulce Maria Rocks Serbia. We are an official fc of singer, actress, and composer @DulceMaria. Latest news, photos, informations and more!”—implied standard-issue Internet fandom. And the images definitely showed Dulce. Yet the handles were apparently based not in Serbia or Mexico, but in Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Colorado.
Last week, I tweeted at the suckers. No response. I also reached out to Twitter for more information. No response, but as of writing this post, all but three of the accounts have been suspended.
Twitter has explicit rules outlawing “impersonation,” which it defines as “portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner.” I’m not sure whether the xwaldie-clones deserved to be banned, since they claim to be neither me nor Dulce, but some mythical amalgam of both of us. The company also tolerates parody accounts. Perhaps there is some genius commentary at work here about Latina pop stardom as told through links to Slate blog posts.
Anyway, I feel like one of those primordial Greek monsters with her brood of half-human, half-beast children around her. Hey, Twitter, free the waldie-bots! Or don’t, actually. I can’t say I mind that they’re mostly gone. Again, the moral and message of this mystery seems to be that there is no moral, no message. The Internet is strange. Dulce Maria, however, sounds divine on “Il regalo piu grande.”