Time travelers on social media beware: you may slip up and post information well ahead of its time. One research study out of Michigan Technological University has sought to uncover undercover travelers who exist among us in our digital present.
The study was conducted by physics professor Robert Nemiroff and graduate student Teresa Wilson. Their research primarily focused on “prescient” information considered unknowable before its time that was mentioned on Google, Bing, and Twitter. Twitter was the only reliable social media platform because it doesn’t allow users to back-date their posts and yielded searches for terms dating back to the platform’s early days.
Nemiroff and Wilson whittled their search to two major events they believe will have a lasting significance for years: Comet ISON and Pope Francis. ISON came into the public lexicon on September 21, 2012, while Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name “Francis” after being elected pope on March 16, 2013. Discussions and mentions of the two notable cultural events were searched for between January 2006 and September 2013 to find traces of time travelers.
While the majority of findings were futile, one blog post advertised on Twitter actually had a discussion about Pope Francis before he was ever considered a candidate for pope. After careful consideration, however, it was deemed overly speculative and not necessarily prescient.
This study follows in the footsteps of other famous experiments aimed at outing time travelers. In 2005, an MIT graduate student named Amai Dorai advertised and hosted a convention for time travelers, which resulted in 450 guests, none of which had come from the future. In 2012, Stephen Hawking held a similar event: a private party for time travelers that was advertised after the party happened. Again, no time travelers made an appearance.
While seeking evidence of time travelers seems silly at first, it warrants speculation about our current place in the fourth dimension and where we expect to be within it. If a time traveler were to use social media, perhaps it’s a method of properly fitting into our society, which gradually ingrains the role of online persona into our vision of reality every day. Would a time traveler stick out more if they visited our time, or a time in our near distant future, and didn’t upkeep an online presence? While this question would entirely depend on how long of a stay, or for what reasons or motives a time traveler has for traveling, the desire to identify or welcome those who visit us from the future means we’re coming ever closer to bridging the gap between fantasy and reality in relation to time travel.
Love our content? Join the Serious Wonder Community. It’s free, and we have lots of incentives for readers and contributors!