Weird Internets is a series in which we spotlight and explore funny, bizarre, or otherwise interesting corners of the internet. Today, we talk to Matthew K., or "cheesegod69," who has spent each Friday over the last few months following and retweeting every Kevin on Twitter — from @kevin to @kevin388.
No one uses numbers on Facebook, just full names. Everyone is assigned a number, true, but you register with government names, and search with government names. As a system this works because Facebook identifies you to to others through your connections: a friend searching for "Max Read" will find me because I am likely the "Max Read" most closely connected to her through friends, or friends of friends, or degrees even further removed. Thanks to its similarity to how we encounter relationships in real life, Facebook's network-based solution to the problem of identifying people online is practical and elegant. It's also likely a reason why Facebook has overtaken nearly all other services — most notably AOL — as the front line of the internet for the average user.
AOL relied in practice on a quick-and-dirty solution for distinguishing one Max Read from another, one that has an at best indirect relationship to off-internet reality: the addition of numbers. To find the Max Read you want, you need to know that he is MaxRead1985 — not MaxRead420 or MaxRead666. On AOL, the ubiquity of numerical screen names gave the service an odd prison-camp quality. But by placing users in a semi-arbitrary relationship with everyone else on their number lines, it also opened up interesting possibilities, possibilities that are much rarer to come by on Facebook. If I'm MaxRead1985, after all, who's MaxRead1984? And MaxRead1986? Are there really 1,984 other MaxReads on AOL? Do I dare check in on MaxRead69?
On Twitter, one man, paying homage to the chance juxtapositions created by numerical screen names, is trying to answer those questions. His name is cheesegod69, and he is going to get to know every Kevin on Twitter.
— Matt (@Cheesegod69) March 30, 2012
"It's kind of like that episode of the This American Life TV show where they explore the lives of 7 people that are all named John Doe, except we're exploring the Twitter accounts of hundreds of people named Kevin and there's a lot more talking about double penetration and hornets," cheesegod69, whose real name is Matt, explained to me over email. (He asked that I not use his last name.) It's a simple project: "Basically, every Friday morning, I highlight as many usernames that start with @kevin as will fit in one tweet. I started with @kevin1." Today, he hit @kevin401.
— kevin (@kevin394) September 28, 2011
The idea arose out of "follow Friday," a Twitter tradition where users highlight and recommend Twitter accounts. "Back a few months ago on a Friday, my timeline was filled with the Follow Friday (#ff) hashtag," Matt says. "So I decided to do one of my own but, for reasons I don't remember, posted a tweet to 'Follow the Kevins,' then I did an entire #ff tweet of Kevins, starting with @kevin1 and ending with @kevin16."
— kevin (@kevin5) April 8, 2008
Though he'd just typed in the names without double-checking, Matt realized that all 16 accounts were registered, and most had been used. So he did it again next Friday. "I just never stopped. So far every Kevin I've tweeted has been an actual account." (Matt does not follow @cheesegod. "[L]ike 2 years ago he legit threatened to sue" over the facebook.com/cheesegod URL, which Matt registered first. In the Facebook economy, no one wants numbers. It reminds people of AOL.)
— Kevin (@Kevin18) April 26, 2008
"There's no goal," Matt says, and no real design behind the ritual. As much as anything, it's an interesting way to dip into a random cross-section of Twitter, already a kind of ground zero for the internet's peculiar blend of noise and signal. Very few of the Kevins are "power users" with well-trafficked or even sensible accounts; "most," says Matt, "seem to be twitter spam bots, though I can't possibly fathom how a bunch of accounts with names like 'Kevin127' tweeting things like 'mwtjtj' are making someone money."
— Kevin (@Kevin127) November 30, 2008
So far, none of the Kevins have been angry about their inclusion. (We've highlighted some of Matt's favorite Kevins below.) "The only responses I get are from Kevins that want to be included," Matt told me. "If your username is Kevin with some numbers behind it, I'll get to you in due time." The other response is from non-Kevins addicted to the weird window-opening that the Kevin project represents. "It's kind of blown up into a Thing now," Matt says. "People will tweet at me if I'm late posting the Kevins."
INTERNETTING SINCE: There have been Kevins on Twitter since the earliest days of the service. Matt has been on Twitter since late 2007, and tweeting about the Kevins since last November. He's also the proprietor of horse_ebooks fanfics, a Tumblr that turns tweets from cult favorite spam Twitter account Horse_Ebooks into short stories.
WHERE TO START: Follow @cheesegod69 (it's worth it for the rest of the week, too) and wait for the Kevins Tweet every Friday. Retweet your favorite Kevins as appropriate.
FAVORITE INTERNET THING: The Kevins like a variety of things — sex, food, worship, Iran, Jess from the Daily Buzz. Matt likes the Kevins. See below for a selection of his favorites.