A fifth of the way into the 21st century, it seems impossible that a person can have no online presence. But it can be done. A person just might be a natural technophobe, or social media rubs them the wrong way. They might be too busy with an offline life to do more than lurk and watch a few videos. They might live entirely “off-grid” with the kind of career which doesn’t lend itself to being connected. Or, there’s the possibility that they might just be extremely good at protecting their privacy.
Having no online presence in the modern era is a little bit like being a ghost. Finding someone on the Internet who doesn’t participate in our modern global Babylon presents a particularly puzzling challenge, but it can be done. Here’s a little resource list for tracking down a more elusive individual:
The first thing to understand is that even if a person has no online presence, they have still made some kind of a mark on modern industrialized society. Going to a people search engine will uncover much information outside of mere online activity, like criminal records, credit activity, last known address, and possible relatives.
They can also search “deep web” records, which wouldn’t appear in a normal search but are accessible at the right pressure points of the web anyway. At the very least, they might pop up on a White Pages telephone listing here. For that matter, you can use a reverse phone look-up if you happen to have a phone number.
Facebook and LinkedIn
Just because your target doesn’t go online doesn’t mean everybody in their life is equally absent. Your target should have relatives, friends, romantic partners, business associates, co-workers, or other acquaintances who most assuredly do go online, and will likely at least mention the person you’re looking for.
Ancestry and Alumni Websites
Sites such as Ancestry or Classmates are active hubs of scattered families inquiring after the “black sheep” of the family. One good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if you’re looking for a certain person, chances are better than somebody else has searched for them too, and your trails might converge on each other.
Reverse Image Search
Do you have a photo of your target? If so, scan in a digital copy and go to Google’s image search, then upload the photo. There might be a possibility that the person you’re seeking was known to someone else who does post online. Google will helpfully suggest similar images, which may lead to a lucky hit once in a while.
Perhaps your target is deceased? Hopefully, this isn’t the case, but it is worth checking at a death records website. They might have also posted on an associated message board or forum, talking about their own recently deceased loved ones.
If you’ve still come up empty by this point, it’s becoming likely that you’re dealing with an individual who is very shrewd at hiding their online presence. They never go on without a VPN, encrypt everything they send, use only anonymous search engines, and never use any identifying details. If there’s anything you know about the person such as their favorite hobby or interests, try browsing through forums related to their known tastes to see if they’ve at least posted something there that gives them away.
It is nearly impossible, if not wholly impossible, to live in the modern world and leave no record online. Having an online identity is becoming a necessary aspect of going to school, getting a job, or functioning as a citizen. So if you’re not having any luck, you’re dealing with somebody who doesn’t want to be found.