Put a #Hashtag on It

Many writers will claim that they “write for themselves.” This is true enough, but attention, constructive criticism, and a few “attaboys” will make the days creep at a better than petty pace.

In this social media saturated age, in which both of my septuagenarian parents have Facebook accounts and people who state that they do not understand Twitter have a couple thousand followers on that service, drawing attention to one’s work without purchasing advertising time on the radio to scream for 30 continuous seconds seems difficult. For me, a naturally quiet sort, sharing the publication of a new piece naturally feels unnatural, like recording that 30-second Janovian advertisement. Screaming is so unseemly.

But here I am, addicted to my numbers, measuring my metrics each day. It is an inner battle between believing that what I write is worth being written (does having readers or a reader equal “worth”? No, of course not) and wanting people to discover this (un)certain idea for themselves.

In the Peter Cook-Dudley Moore film, “Bedazzled,” poor Stanley Moon (Moore) wants the affection of Margaret (Eleanor Bron). The Devil, George Spigott (Peter Cook), offers him seven wishes to win her. In one, Stanley is a gold-lamé-costumed rock star whose new hit song “Love Me!” drives all the young women, including Margaret, wild. The lyrics, and Moore’s performance, are little more than him yelling “Love Me!” The very next act, Drimble Wedge and the Vegetations, wins them all over to the Devil, George, when he speak-sings his contempt for their affections. (“I’m self-contained. Leave me alone,” goes the new hit, and his dry loathing for them makes the women in the audience desire him all the more.) Stanley gets run over in the crowd rushing to the Devil at the end of his song.


I want to be like George Spigott, the Devil, and declare my lack of outer needs like affection (so banal) and love (so, ugh, human), so that all life-forms on planet Earth will run over each other to cover me in kisses, but really, I am like Stanley. The mere thought of wanting to be like the Devil makes me that much more like Stanley, too.

There are tools to get attention in the cacophony of voices making themselves heard in our social-media-saturated world. (I used to teach freshman college English, and any time that I write something like “In the world” or “In our such-and-such world,” I always hear the nonsense phrase that I saw again and again at the beginning of my students’ papers: “In our world of today.”) But if I hit “publicize,” a fine WordPress tool made available to those of us who use it, and my post goes to Facebook, there it sits as a reminder to people who already know about this website right here. My personal friends. If it gets publicized to Twitter, it gets lost in the dozens of posts per second that whiz past any number of readers.

The hashtag tool seems to be one item that helps the world of noise organize itself. And it has helped me direct some attention toward some columns. And it has not helped me at all, also. Like all imperfect things, it is imperfect. And that is perfect, because it is something else to learn about, experiment with, and use.

And what does a hashtag do? When one posts something on the different media platforms, a label with this punctuation mark: #, is what is called hashtagged. It helps the post get clumped together with anything else so labelled, so that people who might be interested in what it is about might find it. The title of this piece, “Put a #Hashtag On It,” will automatically be clumped together with anything else containing “#hashtag” in the title or description. (How many of those might there be today? We will see.) For the last week or so, the hashtagged phrase, “#ICantBreathe” (minus the quotation marks) has been getting a lot of attention, for good and obvious reasons. It is a shorthand way of saying, “Here is a good article about this topic or concern” or “I am showing solidarity with this concern.”

Here is a good article about this: “Now Trending: Hashtags.”

But it is an imperfect tool. Yesterday was Tom Waits’ birthday and I tweeted two tribute tweets. Both had #TomWaits in the statement. One Tweet was shared and re-shared, by people I have never before encountered on Twitter, hundreds of times according to Twitter (the first one below), and the other? Well, it was not.

What was the difference between the two? I have no idea.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for December 7 asks, “What’s the most important (or interesting, or unexpected) thing about blogging you know today that you didn’t know a month ago?”

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  1. wscottling · December 8, 2014

    I’m kinda right there with you. I think I’d abandon my blog, as I’ve done before, if it had no readers at all. However, I do write for myself because writing is cathartic in a way. I guess, as in all things, there is a balance between the two. I want to express my opinion and start a dialogue, but I don’t want to join in the mob of voices that are drowning each other out. I prefer to have my conversations… say, in the coffee houses rather than shouting on the street corners.

    So yes, numbers matter in that I do have readers at all, but I don’t want to have the most readers evah! If that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ted Luoma · December 8, 2014

    I find that I write about some stuff just so I don’t forget it. I’m easily distracted, but it helps me remember places I’ve been. It’s great to have others read your stuff, though.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. thereluctantbaptist · December 8, 2014

    I don’t write for myself, I think for myself. I write hoping that someone else is thinking, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thereluctantbaptist · December 8, 2014

    P.S. As shameful as it is to admit, I got twitter last year solely to save someone each week on The Voice. Beyond that, I truly do not know how to use it, and wouldn’t even if I did. I’m looking for a kinder, gentler life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Martha Kennedy · December 10, 2014

    I don’t want to write for myself. I want my work to be published and read widely. HOWEVER in order TO work, I have to write for myself. It’s an interesting situation.

    As for Twitter — living in California in the middle of fires a couple summers ago, I discovered that CalFire tweeted constantly and I could get the best possible updates from them on Twitter. It was wonderful. Better than any other source of information for that kind of critical situation than I’ve found. It changed my mind about it, and while I “tweet” my posts, I don’t do it with any thought anyone will pick them up out there in Tweet land. I don’t think the best use of Twitter is one of my discursive blogs about national monuments and education…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · December 11, 2014

      … you might be surprised.

      I want to be published and read widely, too, and even though I am not-so comfortably retired I guess I am still enough of a careerist to look at what I am doing here and on the social media outlets as a stepping stone to something. But I write because it pleases me and I am not actively looking for work. It’s a situation, like you said.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Martha Kennedy · December 11, 2014

        I’m with you there. It’s like wishing on a star, in a way. Someone MIGHT see a story and go, “Wow! Where has she been all my life!” and “tweet” me back offering a contract. I have no idea and, because of that, I don’t want to eliminate any possibilities.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Dr Rupert Harker · December 12, 2014

    Great article.
    I crave attention, constantly checking my stats, emails etc
    “Talking to my imaginary friends,” my wife calls it.

    Liked by 1 person

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