Humans search for meaning in all kinds of bizarre places. We might read too much into a small coincidence, take up prayer or meditation, or find the face of Jesus Christ in a piece of toast. But perhaps the most unlikely candidate to offer pearls of wisdom is the notorious Twitter spambot Horse_ebooks.
Currently, the @Horse_ebooks account has over 170,000 followers on Twitter, and is one of only eight accounts followed by my father. It’s an automated account created with the intention of lifting the sales of poorly-written ebooks about horses, but in an unexpected twist of events, has instead become a modern day sage.
It tweets a combination of unconvincing click bait linking people to ebooks (surprisingly, not about horses) and nonsensical snippets of text lifted from the web (also not about horses). The account was embroiled in controversy in 2011 when a setting change caused the random snippets to be sourced from the web rather than from a collection of actual horse ebooks. This resulted in an increase of retweetable non-sequiturs and was viewed cynically by Horse purists, who believed the account was better when the quotable tweets were a rarity.
There’s no pattern of content, meaning or tone, and even the grammar is wildly erratic. A popular recent tweet reads “you constantly misplace your house”, a message that over 2500 people felt they needed to retweet to their friends. Another surprisingly coherent tweet was blatant innuendo, asking “What do you really want to do with your telescope?” Many Horse ebooks tweets are tantalizingly cut-off mid-sentence, leaving the Twitterati to fill in the gaps.
The tweets are interpreted in many ways: as predictions of the future, reflections on the past and informed commentary on society. Sometimes, they just match up with common thoughts, such as “tuna immediately,” a Horse classic that was retweeted by over 1 500 people.
At first, regarding an automatic spambot as a kind of wise, post-modern poet seems to border on insanity. But once you are drawn into the enigma that is Horse ebooks, it’s impossible to not imagine links between the nonsense it tweets and your own life. A while ago, the Horse tweeted “Its not just about this.” It never is with the Horse somehow – and therein lies the magic.