The Twitter account known as Dril has long been one of the internet’s most unlikely treasures. A comically unhinged, but somehow coherent character, Dril is, as the AV Club’s Clayton Purdom puts it, “a rare rallying point and muse for everyone, regardless of affiliation or creed.” Indeed, the account’s best tweets show us our own digital lives as in a fun house mirror.
Retweeting a Dril tweet feels like a small gift to those who follow you on Twitter: To do so is to insert a bit of antic eccentricity into the stream of bad news (or as we call it in 2017, “news”) that generally blankets the platform. There are other accounts that meet a similar need (I’m partial to Birdsrightsactivist), but few quite manage to hit the tone that Dril has perfected, an unlikely combination of self-contempt and self-confidence.
For years, one of the defining features of Dril was his anonymity. The account reportedly had origins on the Something Awful forums, and its author was supposedly acquainted with Jacob Bakkila, creator of the famously strange account Horse_ebooks. Beyond that, though, details were scarce, which most agreed was for the best. “The most important part of dril lore is that no one knows who dril is,” Alexander Mcdonough wrote on Medium. Purdom likewise suggests that the account’s anonymity contributes to the feeling that Dril is just the internet itself—in all its hilarious stupidity—personified.
Some people, though, just can’t let a good thing be. On Friday afternoon, K. Thor Jensen mournfully tweeted that Dril’s LinkedIn page had been identified.
Though Jensen pointed back to a recent Tumblr post on the topic, much of the real investigative work seems to have been done by Reddit users back in September. The name has, in other words, been out there for months, but it’s only finding its way to the surface now. And there’s a reason for that, presumably: No one really wants to know who Dril is. Both the Daily Dot and Mashable rounded up numerous Tweets from mourners, many of them irritated that anyone had bothered to identify Dril in the first place.
Some of the bereaved go further, suggesting that the mere act of identifying Dril should be a punishable crime.
I can respect this position: There’s something to be said for keeping the mystery alive. But if I haven’t named the individual behind Dril, it’s mostly because it doesn’t matter. I made my way through the Tumblr post. I’ve trawled the Reddit thread. I’ve seen the name. And I don’t care. It changes nothing. I’ll forget it by tomorrow.
None of Dril’s fans really believed the character was anything but a character. But knowing that there was a performer behind the mask didn’t make the mask any less wonderful. That’s as true today as it was before. If the revelation still upsets, it may be because, as Purdom suggests, Dril seemed to be all of us, a composite of our foolishness and our foibles. Identifying the author doesn’t, however, make that feeling go away; it simply reminds us of something we should have recognized all along: Even as we were reading Dril, Dril was reading us.