The everlasting appeal of a Twitter bot that never stops screaming - Kogonuso


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May 18, 2017

The everlasting appeal of a Twitter bot that never stops screaming

Megan Farokhmanesh

On any given day, @infinite_scream’s Twitter timeline is a chorus of all-caps yelling. “AAAAHHHHHHH,” it screamed shortly after its creation in October 2015; “AAAAAAAAAH,” it expelled today, during the morning commute. Years separate those tweets, but the only changes to the monosyllabic account across 19 months are its variations in spelling. The intention is consistent.
@infinite_scream is an automated account from Nora Reed, a writer and botmaker responsible for accounts like Thinkpiece Bot, Tumblr Simulator, and many more. The account has bubbled into my timeline dozens of times over the last few years, sandwiched between news blasts and memes. But like everything these days, its tweets have assumed a different relevancy on a stream that has grown into a tidal wave of bad news.
“Most people's Twitter timelines are full of horrible news and people freaking out,” Reed tells me over email, “so even though it posts on a timer, it tends to end up next to things that are worth screaming about pretty often.”
It’s digital catharsis, but Reed built @infinite_scream for personal amusement. Similar to their bot @wrongben, a Big Ben Clock parody that bleats out “BONG”s as an (incorrect) indicator of time, the idea is to repost variations on the same joke, again and again. Clearly, it’s working. The account only posts “AHHHHHH” with some slight variations on length and punctuation, but more than 32,000 accounts have followed it, watching it yell into the void.
And why shouldn’t people follow @infinite_scream? It serves as the perfect subtweet of whatever is happening at any given moment.
Reed says the bot works especially well in election seasons, and it’s hard to disagree. The day of the 2016 election, they upped tweets to every 10 minutes, as a joke, with the intention of dialing it down after Clinton won. If Trump was victorious, the plan was to leave it set at every 10 minutes, until he stopped being president.
“I, uh, didn't exactly expect him to win,” Reed says. “It's worked pretty well, though. It turns out that the whole fascism thing makes a bot that does nothing but scream a lot more relevant.” The bot also only shrieks at anyone who interacts with it. This sometimes prompts people to only respond to it with “AAAHH”s of their own, which Reed calls “much cheaper than therapy.”
Reed considers @thinkpiecebot the best of the bunch — it’s a complicated work that’s “the bot equivalent of being held together by duct tape and dental floss” — and @sloganotron is their favorite for laughs, but @infinite_scream has a more general appeal. “People can read whatever they want into it,” Reed says. “It's great for quote-tweeting in replies, and it pretty much relates to anything. It's also built perfectly for confirmation bias, because people never remember the hundreds of times that it doesn't appear following a tweet worth screaming about, just the times that it's relevant.”
@infinite_scream is a Rorschach test. If you’re having a bad day or your feed is flooded with bad news, it’s probably voicing your deep frustrations. But when its “AHH”s follow an exciting announcement, it’s an impromptu celebration. It turns out screaming online is an appropriate reaction to almost anything.
Sometimes the only useful response to all of the noise is to shout right back.

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