Social media is an essential component of our everyday human interaction. It connects the global community in a way no other technological innovation ever has. Whether it be used for leisure, brand promotion, work relations, or news access, its digital fingerprints stretch worldwide.
Last September, Philadelphia 76er JJ Redick chose to delete his social media accounts. In an interview with Zach Lowe on the Lowe Post, Redick explained why he chose to leave social media behind. He said that with social media, he had “never felt completely comfortable.”
Upon initially hearing this news, I was perplexed. Virtually every public figure uses social media. There is no way Redick truly deleted all of his accounts, right? I chose to investigate the matter.
If you search @JJRedick (his former social media handle) on Twitter or Instagram, these images appear:
As an investigative journalist, I didn’t feel this was enough proof. It was clear that he’d removed himself from the most popular social media sites. But what if he still inhabited lesser known sites?
I felt the easiest way to find out was through a quick Google search:
This was odd. Google is fully capable of retrieving individual words from a search in order to process results. How could none of the words in my search retrieve a single result?
I decided to use the Google Help service. What happened next was shocking:
Was Google threatening me? It appeared so. Rather than allow this roadblock to halt my investigation, I decided to use a less popular search engine. The results were similar:
Something felt off. What did these two search engines know that I didn’t? It appeared I’d need to use an even less popular search engine:
Finally, I could continue with my investigation. I decided to click the second result, which took me here:
I promptly filled in the requisite information. As it processed my search, I was asked several questions about Redick:
A minute or two later, I was redirected to the login page for a website called “Post Zone”:
Could this be a social media site? Is this where I’ll find Redick? I quickly typed in my first name, last name, and a username under the signup prompt and clicked the “Start posting!” button. You’re not going to believe what I found next:
There, right in front of my eyes, were two social media posts from Jonathan Clay “JJ” Redick. I’ll admit, after the difficulty I had discovering this website, I was hoping I’d find posts that were a tad more interesting. Nevertheless, this proves that JJ Redick is still on social media.
As I continued to scroll, I began wondering why he was seemingly the only person posting on the site:
I rapidly scrolled through the feed for nearly a minute. Not a single person was posting aside from Redick. Could I perhaps be on his profile page? I clicked his avi:
There had to be other people on this site, right? I remembered seeing the word “Comments” under some of his posts on the homepage. I went back and clicked on a post about podcasting:
It was clear that these three commenters really liked Redick. I went back and clicked on a few more posts—they were the only three people commenting. I clicked on each of their profiles:
At first, nothing seemed unusual, until I noticed the email address “[email protected]” listed on Watch Me Shine’s profile. I went back to the other two—they had the same email address listed. Finally, I went back to Redick’s profile. He had the email address listed, too.
Did Redick create burner accounts to comment on his own posts? If this was the case, does that mean that he’s the only person on this website? And if so, could “Post Zone” be Redick’s own creation?
I went to the site’s dashboard and clicked on the “Staff” tab:
From the information I had gathered, it was now clear—Redick created a social media site for himself and made burner accounts to compliment his posts.
I wanted to learn more, so I decided to email [email protected]:
After sending the email, I immediately received a Gmail notification in my inbox:
Either the email address listed on Post Zone was no longer active, or Redick didn’t want anyone contacting it.
I decided I should attempt to contact him on the website, so I went to my Post Zone profile to look for a message tab. It didn’t take long before I noticed something on the bottom left of the profile page:
Google was sponsoring Post Zone. I remembered the bizarre message I received from the Google Support team when I first began the investigation. Why was Google trying to keep Redick’s social media use hidden? What is the relationship between both parties, and how did it begin?
I went back to the Google Help page and contacted their Support team again:
As I waited for a response, I figured I’d go back on Post Zone and browse some more—but I was unable to:
I tried to access the site a dozen more times, but to no avail. Why was this happening? Did Google block my access? Maybe the Google Support team had messaged me back. I typed in Google’s address in my Safari search bar:
I anxiously hit the refresh button—still nothing. I was stunned. How was Google able to block my access? Did Redick know about this? How does the search engine Bing fit into all of this?
As I write this, I’m struggling to piece everything together. I discovered so much, but I still have more questions than answers.
I know those answers are out there. As a professional journalist, it is my duty to continue investigating, no matter how many obstacles I encounter. I will not stop until I uncover the truth. Until then, I hope the information I’ve provided sheds new light on the JJ Redick social media story. Visit Post Zone while you still can.