Musing, Personal Story

Twitter Echoes

Alright, so we’re getting to the middle stretch of the month, and it is getting really hard to come up with things to blog about. Today is not a day of great inspiration, so rather than try to cobble together an Opinion on something, I’m just going to randomly talk for a little bit about a really strange phenomenon that I have noticed, which I have dubbed “Twitter echoes.”

But first of all, a little context. My day job is in internet marketing, and it involves a number of different activities. The one I’ve been assigned to most recently has me spending a lot of time on Twitter, browsing tweets in plumbing-related categories, like #PlumbingFail or #WaterHeater. I spend literally hours scrolling through pages of tweets with plumbing-related phrases in them, and after a while, I noticed something weird. Sometimes, a random tweet will get picked up by tons of different people, in different places, with completely separate lives and demographics and everything, and repeated. It doesn’t just get repeated once or twice. It gets repeated dozens if not hundreds of times, by all different accounts, for weeks on end. I have started calling these “Twitter echoes,” and they creep me right out.

Now, before you say it, yes, I know that some of the constantly repeated messages might be quotes from TV shows or song lyrics. That also occurred to me, so I started googling these messages, and some of them did turn out to be references to things (although usually references to existing content will have variations in spelling and punctuation, because individual people are typing them up separate from one another, while the echoes are verbatim). The most notable was the all-caps assertion, “YOU’RE GROUNDED BECAUSE YOU DON’T THINK THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL SOUNDS LIKE CHEWBACCA TAKING A SHIT.” That turned out to be from this guy (foul language ahoy!). Sexist, racist, dirty or just plain bad jokes are also common, as well as “sage advice” that is often attributed to multiple unrelated sources. Because the Internet.

But the echoes I’m talking about aren’t references to anything. They aren’t even particularly interesting or remarkable. They read like they were really written by a person who really intended to tweet the message, and if it weren’t for the weird repeating I wouldn’t call them remarkable in any way. For example, here’s the one that kept coming up for the term “shower broke”:

Bf problems, dog ran away, family being awkward, broke the shower, couldnt find a halloween costume, Apart from that Ive had a gd day…

…and for “water heater”:

Getting home and finding out that I needed a new water heater was not the one, glad I have good connects and got it replaced stat

…aaaand for “line burst”:

There is about an inch of water in my bathroom right now _ the line burst…terrific.

See what I mean? Nothing unusual or remarkable about any of those messages. Nothing worth repeating. Certainly nothing worth the frequency with which they are repeated, and there’s no way they’re all legitimately relevant to the people tweeting them. Yet, they continue to pop up, over and over again, complete with spelling errors and creative punctuation. And these aren’t the only examples–I’ve run across dozens of them. It’s actually kind of creepy.

Of course, I’m sure there’s some sort of explanation. You know–those are bot accounts, and they just pick up random tweets to copy to make it look like they’re real people, or whatever. That doesn’t explain why so many would pick up the same message, but then I don’t have a working technical understanding of the innards of Twitter, so the explanation is probably beyond me. I’m just going to leave it at “what the hell, Twitter, you weren’t already weird enough??” and hope I never piss off whatever digital doom critter is making this happen (that’s the most likely scenario, right? Or have I watched too much Doctor Who?).

Repeatedly yours,
M.M. Jordahl

“Beware the small things. A tiny leak can sink a large ship.” -Portuguese proverb, Benjamin Franklin, or Napoleon, depending on which Twitter account you ask

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