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.

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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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