In tech and media circles, where not even a ray of sunshine is exempt from cynicism, “Congrats Twitter“ is the accepted name for the mass wishing of congratulations often occasioned by a peer’s new job or promotion. The term is a commentary, perhaps mixed with a tinge of jealousy, on the mindless back-slapping that pervades those industries.
Isaac Hepworth, an engineer who recently left his leadership job at Twitter after five years at the company (congrats!), had this much-maligned ritual in mind when he created @congratsbot. It’s an automated Twitter account that notices when someone is receiving lots of congratulations from people and chimes in with its own.
But the joke, it turns out, was on the bot.
Rather than skewer the mutual appreciation society, @congratsbot has mostly turned up genuinely touching moments of joy in the lives of people far afield from tech or media or, really, industry of any sort. It is less about the congratulations than the people being congratulated.
“I guess I wasn’t sure what to expect when I built it,” Hepworth wrote to me over email a few days after setting up the bot on a lark. “I suppose, yes, it was originally meant in the spirit of ‘congrats Twitter’ but turned out to be something mostly unrelated.”
It’s already one of the best bots on Twitter and certainly the most heartwarming. Not every person it congratulates is celebrating a major life event—many are like this fan rejoicing in a retweet from Ariana Grande—but they all share an unironic and refreshing humanity.
We should all be so lucky to feel whatever this woman, who just secured coveted VIP tickets to a Halsey concert, is feeling:
The bot has been wishing people well about once a minute, and the tweets it finds are so consistently gladdening that even a feed of the most recent ones is reliably raw joy. @CongratsBot conveniently favorites the tweets to which it replies. Together they are, as Hepworth says, “hundreds of mostly quotidian achievements by a great swath of regular people.” Scroll through a bunch of them, and you’ll see.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. That it is reflects more on my own jadedness and narrow worldview than anything else. Twitter is a vast metropolis of people who mostly couldn’t care less about Fusion’s latest hire. Their celebrations are as real as their tribulations. Of course.
The effect is stronger still because @congratsbot is automated, programmatically plucking delight out of an otherwise random stream. For the most part, it looks for tweets that have received at least five replies containing “congrats” or “congratulations.” But even that process is touching because it outsources the work of determining a tweet’s congrats-worthiness to human consensus.
You can also use the account as a more personal tool to make sure you don’t miss your friends’ accomplishments. Follow @congratsbot, then turn on mobile notifications, which will only trigger when the account replies with “congratulations!” to someone you follow.
In the bot community, Twitter accounts that tweet at users without their consent are generally frowned upon, and many end up getting suspended from the service because so many people block them. Not @congratsbot. People seem happy to receive its good tidings.
While most of the bot’s tweets are directed at regular folk, it occasionally turns up a celebrity’s life event—like this one, which is the most congratulated tweet in the bot’s short life, according to Hepworth:
To the bot, everyone’s joy is equal.