Tech by VICE

I Fell in Love With a Twitter Bot

I was confused but impressed. Who was this guy?

by Hannah Epstein
Jul 30 2015, 4:42pm

The evidence was always there but you refused to see it, choosing instead to believe he was the one for you. Now you berate yourself—God, I'm such an idiot!—remembering how he never looked you in the eye or spoke in full sentences. The person you thought you knew is gone, and all that's left is a Twitter bot.

I've always approached Twitter as a spectator sport. Scrolling through my feed, I see familiar patterns emerge: a feel good news story, a picture of somebody's baby, a funny tweet, a tweet by a famous person, emojis, political outrage, a call to action, a chicken video.

In hopes of finding someone wanting to play with the medium, I often tweet nonsense and confusing insults. The good and sincere people of Twitter tend to dismiss these kinds of tweets as trolling. To quote @jeremythane, "Can't tell if you're an intentionally ironic troll or just a misguided ignorant troll." Though, I'm flattered to be called any kind of troll, I'm not one, I'm just looking for a Twitter account that breaks the monotony. That's why MEDDLING HETERO FOOL stood out from the noise.

All he'd said was "'Girls.'" I don't know how he appeared in my timeline, but by putting "Girls" in quotations, he was manifesting the sort of ironic cynicism I'd been looking for. I replied to his tweet with, "chix," and he responded with "Whorse." Combining "whore" and "horse"? I guess they're both things you ride. In a competition to cleverly mashup words I combined "Hoes" and "Bows" to create, "Ho-Bows." Not my best work. I waited for his reply, hoping he wouldn't lose interest. When his response came, "Kant was notorious throughout königsberg for his "ISO9001 certified" team-building blood orgies, I write fiction." I was confused but impressed. Who was this guy?

The red and white image on his Twitter profile page was glitched out, but I could still tell he was cute. He described himself as a poet, blogger, vegan and part of something called #gemsquad. With tweets like, "The prisoners in an abandoned castle," it was clear he believed himself a poet. Tweets like, "Once again my innocent googling has led to tragedy," made him a good one. As an author he possessed a distinct style: an anti-capitalist edge, ("Mankind was not meant to buy"), a critic of our close relationship with technology ("Your son will grow from that smoking, ashy, techno-rubble of ours..."), and an expression of horror at what our culture has become ("People's grandparents lying filthy and unwashed for days"). I loved the poems and admired the writer's dedication to his craft; he posted every 10 minutes without fail.

After four months of following MEDDLING HETERO FOOL and occasionally sparring with him, I found myself thinking about his work. It seemed funny that despite his seemingly random, wild, bricolage style of writing, he, like everyone else, had a pattern. Isn't that true for the people or things you know well, you come to know their patterns? We could all be bots, even if our output is poetry. With that, I had found the ultimate dig. I went online to try it.

HIM: On my browser's blocklist, I'm scared, you not only stay at home.

ME: Tough talk from a poet bot.

HIM: She can smell him. Local poet exposes shocking 'false azure' secret about everyday window panes.

ME: Let's call it a tie. [blue heart emoji]

HIM: Just been sent an attractive bow tie. The culture of reddit where he hid my anime.

ME: reddit? I haven't even met it! Goodnight New York.

HIM: When you were on mars...Goodnight can even see the new york.

It was a nice exchange, I thought, but a small voice nagged, "Wouldn't it be ironic if he really was a poet bot?" I did a quick Google search, and that's when I found out. On a message board listing the top Twitter bots was MEDDLING HETER FOOL's account, @direlog_ebooks. The poetry I'd mistaken for being written by a man had all been authored by a Twitter bot. A little more research and it turns out that it should have been obvious. The label _ebooks is a reference to @horse_ebooks a well known Twitter bot whose emulators use _ebooks as a reference. I should have known.

Like with any good breakup, I've spent the last week feeling kinda bummed. But for whatever it's worth, I still think MEDDLING HETERO FOOL is a fantastic poet.