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Weird Twitter refers to a loosely connected group of Twitter users who are known to experiment with spelling, punctuation and format for humor or poetry. The style of writing can be considered surrealist by participants in the group, with subject matter ranging from creating absurd scenarios to attempting to describe abstract feelings by choosing words for their “verbal aesthetic appeal.” However, many of the accounts are grouped together by the same desire to reinterpret the “realness” of life in ways people do not always get to experience.
One of the earliest Twitter accounts associated with these types of tweets belongs to Jon Hendren, a writer for Something Awful, who created his account @fart in March 2008. As of October 2012, dozens of his tweets have been favorited or retweeted hundreds of times.
i saw an ad on craigslist once that said “free firewood, u collect it” so i wrote the guy and said “bud you just wrote an ad for the woods”— jon hendren(@fart) May 26, 2012
DESTROY NON-WEIRD TWITTER— REGIS (@regisl) March 2, 2012
In March 2011, Jon Hendren began cataloging his favorite tweets on Something Awful in a series called “Twitter Tuesday.” Though the phrase “weird Twitter” was never used to describe these tweets, many of the Twitter users he quoted would later be included in the group. In August 2012, PhD student Sebastian Benthall posted his first hypothesis about the phenomenon to his personal blog, Digifesto. He argued that he saw the tweets similar to the spam poetry found in the Twitter account @Horse_ebooks, despite no interaction between eBooks Twitter accounts and this community, and that members valued the favoriting statistics provided by Favstar.
On October 3rd, 2012, a question inquiring about weird Twitter was posed to the Q&A website Quora, where an anonymous user described it as “the Twitter equivalent of /b/,” 4chan‘s random board notorious for its outrageous content. Screenshots of this Quora page, along with Sebastian Benthall’s blog post, were tweeted out by @Mobute on October 16th to nearly 10,000 followers. That day, “weird Twitter” was mentioned more than 1000 times across the platform, followed by many users who typically post in this style complaining about the use of the term.
Also on the 16th, Benthall posted a follow-up article on his blog with a compilation of angry tweets from Twitter users who had perceived the concept of “weird Twitter” in a negative light. (example shown below). Two days later, Benthall posted a third article explaining his academic interest in the study of online communities and his fascination with the amorphous “Weird Twitter community.” He also noted that he was attempting to troll the community with the two previous posts, overusing scientific language to stir up controversy on purpose, which did lead to a large influx of hate messages.
help help the academics discovered us, we are a Thing now. get ready for the Gawker expose and the Huffington Post image gallery— wreal wrad wraith (@bugbucket) October 17, 2012
On October 17th, a Twitter account named @WeirdTwiterTxt was launched to parody stereotypical “weird” tweets associated with the community. The following day, @tropikoala uploaded a map of 75 “Weird Twitter” users (shown below) that he felt reflected the many circles and sub-groups that existed within the small part larger community he had come in contact with. The image was intended to show just a portion of the vast co-existent universes within this type of tweeting. Also on the 18th, Slacktory posted a collections of the staff’s favorite Weird Twitter tweets. On October 19th, Uproxx posted a similar article with more examples of tweets.