Slacktory

Weird Twitter map header

This is a response to a recent blowup over a grad student discovering and examining a group of Twitter users.

The mere existence of this post will piss someone off. I think. Maybe they’re just joking. Whatevs.

What is Weird Twitter?

“Weird Twitter” is, simply, a loose group of Twitter users who write in a less-accessible form, using sloppy punctuation/spelling/capitalization, poetic experimentation with sentence format, first-person throwaway characters, and other techniques little known to the vast majority of “serious” Twitter users.

These users are sometimes hard to distinguish from “low-quality” users like teens with textspeak or actual bots. Several of them regularly retweet, quote, or riff on @horse_ebooks tweets.

Their tweets lean toward comedy, but maybe I just think that because that’s the part I like most. There could be some big crossover with Homestuck fanfic and I wouldn’t know. What gets me is that these users are actually innovating in the form of Twitter, rather than squeezing earlier forms into it. Their jokes seem, in some way that’s embarrassing to define (more on that later), written-for-Twitter in a way that, say, a Paula Poundstone tweet does not — in a way even a Rob Delaney tweet does not, though Delaney is a fan of several Weird Twitter users.

Examples of Weird Twitter:

Do you see the thread here? Do you see how these tweets can take a little more time to process than the usual? Contrast them with this funny but non-weird account. To me, that’s the essence here. Weird Twitter is just more-complexly, more-interestingly, or more-experimentally written tweets.

Who is Weird Twitter?

I count the quoted users above as part of it. We’ve featured all of them in Slacktory’s Follow Fridays. But this isn’t a defined group. Some of those above might insist they’re not “Weird Twitter”. And anyone could be “Weird Twitter” if they wanted. It’s a convenient term, not an actual organization.

On the other hand, there really are certain users who frequently retweet, @, and otherwise interact with each other. Several also hang out together on other forums, blogs, and even in person. I’ve listened to several of them talk about others, describe their personalities and styles. It’s ridiculous to deny that there’s some relevant social aspect here.

Several of these people write outside Twitter. I’m currently talking to a few about writing for Slacktory. My interest here stems from a deep appreciation for their work — and hopefully that will keep certain people from dismissing me as much as they dismissed the last guy who wrote about them.

Why does anyone have a strong opinion about defining some Twitter people?

Because social phenomena are enormously fun to investigate, but the subjects often resent the perceptions of outsiders.

I don’t know who coined the term “weird Twitter”, but I think Sebastian Benthall was the first guy to try clearly defining it. Benthall is a PhD student who seems sincere in his exploration. His stilted academic phrasing annoyed, scared, or amused a lot of the people he was describing.

He wrote about most of the reactions himself, and it’s a very good read. The user @hell_homer got particularly offended got like maybe a little annoyed and exaggerated it to act really offended, saying that Benthall was “unqualified” because he was hardly following any of the Weird Twitter users that hellhomer followed. (Note that hell_homer was implicitly accepting that there was a somewhat canonical definition of which people were “Weird Twitter”, and claiming that he was deeply embedded in that group.) Benthall’s writeup covered this with some beautiful bathos:

@hell_homer… appears to not appreciate the irony that by reaching out to the people who might be concerned about the ‘weird twitter’ label, he is symbolically constructing the weird twitter community within the digital social space. @hell_homer autoreifies ‘weird twitter’ through his very acts of resistance.

He’s been going on like this now for like four hours.

After further reaction, Benthall wrote up another analysis and reaction piece. He slightly backtracked on the first reaction piece, claiming that his first reaction post was intentionally overly academic. I’m always wary of someone who calls “troll” on themselves, but he really did seem to slip into super-academia-speak for just that post. He still made sincere and valid points, though, like the above.

I’m not sure how much actual abuse Benthall got, but he said:

It is a really good thing I have a thick skin, because the amount of abuse I’ve put up with in the past 48 hours has been intense. There has also been a pretty epic amount of disdain and even a little attempted character assassination….

In other words, the experiment was a wild success in terms of generating a significant reaction. However, the results coming in were literally all over the map: random hate, denial that the phenomenon existed, direct confirmation that the phenomenon existed, questioning of the meaning of it. A surprising number of people telling me I had “ruined” something, or “didn’t get” something.

Why? Really, what the fuck did he ruin? Nothing. Only the most self-involved drama queens could possibly feel “ruined” by some outside exploration by a goddamn PhD student.

“Weird Twitter” is not going to become Hot Topic shirts. It will not get sponsored by Gatorade. Its innovative and non-cynical forms keep it too challenging and slippery to safely co-opt, and its commercial appeal is near-zero to any brand big enough to do it harm.

I will say that every time I listed someone’s tweets on Slacktory, or talked to them about writing for us, I only got polite, positive, enthusiastic responses. While I feel my appreciative, collegial approach is easier to like than Benthall’s clinical one, I still don’t understand how he provoked such rage from his subjects. But maybe if you want these people to like you, just do what they’re doing with them and in time learn not to give all these fucks?

Am I entirely missing some other real reason for anger? Or am I right that some people are just prickly about some shit, and as @cool_pond says, “YO WHO GIVE A FUCK DOE”?

tl;dr: There are some people who are really funny and creative on Twitter. If you like one, you probably like the others. Yay.

If you want more of these people to follow, try this charming map by @tropikoala (click to enlarge):

You may also like: Steve Roggenbuck, YouTube poet

  • http://twitter.com/Slabs_XIX Weren’t Me

    This is bollocks.

  • JoeKinnear

    >tfw no gf

  • http://twitter.com/UnderwearEyes UnderwearEyes

    No mention of Channel 11? Their weirdo news source?

    • http://toomuchnick.com Nick

      Educate me!

    • http://twitter.com/tudza tudza

      Is that the CB channel 11, TV channel 11, or some other Channel 11?

    • if

      that account hasnt been funny for a year and a half. i think it changed writers. used to be awesome though.

  • stefinmotion

    dad boner is NOT weird twitter

    • http://toomuchnick.com Nick

      Why not?

      • stefinmotion

        obviously as with anything to do with weird twitter it is “hard to explain” and also subjective but if anything dad boner is “bro twitter.” Often talked about on Deadspin and amongst sportsbros, not weirdos on twitter.

        • ztirf

          It also is pretty openly a comedic product? Kind of like Your Aunt Diane.

          • stefinmotion

            exactly

          • ztirf

            and FWIW, I think both of them are great humor writing, but Weird Twitter is “doing something else” to use terrible creative writing workshop speak

          • stefinmotion

            you ~get it~

          • http://toomuchnick.com Nick

            Decent point! I think he uses a lot of the same techniques, but sure, it seems reasonable to argue he’s something different.

    • http://twitter.com/KirbysLeftEye myjah

      Karl is not even weird.

  • phazeaction

    i hang out in deep weird twitter. and you are right. you don’t even know how weird it gets. see @TIMESCANNER @NightValeRadio @space__elevator

    • http://toomuchnick.com Nick

      I find Night Vale super-accessible; I listened to the podcast’s first episode and was actually a little disappointed by the predictability. Hoping they evolved from their promising start with later eps.

    • http://toomuchnick.com Nick

      We featured TIMESCANNER in May: http://slacktory.com/2012/05/follow-friday-timescanner/

      I am legitimately angry at the world for not making him as famous as Jenny Holzer. Look at this fucker’s ideas:

      http://www.richardpenner.com/2011/11/love-of-money-is-gamification-of-life.html

      http://www.richardpenner.com/2011/10/add-versus-nanotech-linguists.html

      • http://twitter.com/timescanner TIMESCANNER

        Hiya. I appreciate the attention to both the so-called “Weird Twitter” and me in particular. Very cool. I feel like many of us would be having these thoughts and writing what we do whether there was a community or not and whether we had an audience or not. So it’s nice to share these thoughts with more people.
        Some people are pretty scared of being misunderstood, but that’s just an inescapable part of any form of communication.

    • space__elevator

      oh my gosh thanks

  • DaveSteib

    The map loses credibility for including users like @itsrealNED who try too hard to be Weird Twitter despite being hopelessly unfunny and not including @boring_as_heck, who is for most people I know the gatekeeper of Weird Twitter.

    • http://twitter.com/KirbysLeftEye myjah

      The map is clearly not credible because 1.) beebee’s twitter user name is wrong 2.) Weird Twitter doesn’t actually even exist

      • http://twitter.com/DudeGurlz Kris Kail

        You can’t say Weird Twitter doesn’t exist, it’s just too big and too unorganized for any article to accurately portray it. “Weird Twitter” is a concept, an idea, rather than a true subculture. Bottom line of “Weird Twitter” is that it’s the idea of several hundreds to thousands of people following the same users as well as each other and interacting in a community-esque setting. It’s no different than beliebers or one directioners becoming twitter friends and having their own disjointed community.

  • pffffft

    what do you MEAN I can’t be considered a cool special snowflake on the internet for my 150 character humor :(

  • Get a life

    Jesus christ guys, this has gone way too far.

  • ahahagah

    hell homer more like hell homo

  • hell_homer

    im real homer from tv

  • trev repives

    Lol that people took this map seriously and not as something for friends and people he liked.

  • hell_homer

    I’m hell_homer, I’d be interested in writing for you.

  • Aimee

    The overreaction stems from the fact that social or literary analysis is too smart for functionally illiterate fanboys.

  • wpfan

    wolf pupy transcends weird twitter

  • http://twitter.com/bizmarkiedesade Openly Female Poster

    You can tell there’s no such thing as weird twitter because nothing anywhere ever centers around Riff Raff

  • AlexDoom

    Weird Twitter is like a poor-mans Mitch Hedberg

  • http://www.facebook.com/rohan.zalani Rohan Zalani

    what, this is just shitposting on twitter, it’s not a new phenomenon

  • Pinko Communism

    https://twitter.com/8FrontFlips My steam chat runs this Twitter account because we are very interesting people with lives that involve hobbies and such like for instance.

  • http://notveryraven.tumblr.com/ Andrew

    something awful dot com bitch

  • Jay-Dub

    This reminds me of the Professor who trolled City of Heroes in the name of “Science”. The number one lesson to be learnt from all this is that if you insult someone they probably aren’t going to like you and probably aren’t going to want to help you do your “research”. Respect begets respect, disrespect begets disrespect.

  • BigHustle

    Someone doesn’t know the terrible secret of space.

    :GB2GBS:

  • Kingkoopa456

    Weird twitter just seems like people posting who can’t quite grasp the English language.

  • Jonbly Herbert

    Barely weird. Try harder.

  • http://twitter.com/KirbysLeftEye myjah

    bats

    • http://twitter.com/nyratk1 pizza, tacos & bats

      dingers

      • http://twitter.com/smallupsetter Jorts_ebooks

        roids

        • http://twitter.com/nyratk1 pizza, tacos & bats

          BONDS

  • http://twitter.com/DudeGurlz Kris Kail

    Upset I never get mentioned in association with weird twitter, considering everybody knows me as the Sonic Bed Sex Haver from Kotaku, also upset that @PTCruiserUSA never gets mentioned considering she’s a car who talks about VH1 Soul non-stop.

  • http://twitter.com/tropikoala Hunter Funk

    ddd

    • http://twitter.com/starkruzr J

      Why are we even talking about this like it’s anything other than a bunch of hipsters gazing at their (and occasionally each other’s) navels?

      What possible evidence could we need beyond the people telling him he “ruined something?”

    • Joeh

      People are stupid.

  • burgin

    someone actually wrote out that mind-map of weird twitter, think about that

  • twiterer

    hell homer is a fucking faggot

  • twiterer

    hell homer is a fucking faggot.

  • Ryan Seacrest

    Instead of writing all these words you could have just said “FYAD”.

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