If you have any doubt that the hashtag is a frighteningly powerful tool in our modern vocabulary, imagine a person you care about texting you that song’s title line out of the blue: “You’re beautiful.” Now think of the same person texting, “You’re #beautiful.” The second one is jokey, ironic, distant—and hey, maybe that’s what that person was going for. But it also hammers home that point that the internet too often asserts: You’re not as original as you once thought. “Beautiful” is analog, unquantifiable, one-in-a-million. #Beautiful, on the other hand, is crowded terrain. Ten more people have just tweeted about something or someone #beautiful since you started reading this sentence.
As more and more of our daily interactions become text-based — people preferring texting to phone calls, workplaces that rely heavily email and instant messaging—we’re developing ways to stretch our written language so it can communicate more nuance, so we can tell people what we mean without accidentally leading them on or pissing them off. Periods have becomemore forceful, commas less essential, and over the last few years, the hashtag has morphed into something resembling the fabled sarcasm font—the official keystroke of irony. Putting a hashtag in front of something you text, email, or IM to someone is a sly way of saying “I’m joking,” or maybe more accurately, “I mean this and I don’t at the same time.”
The #Art of the Hashtag
Thanks to Twitter, the hashtag has become an important linguistic shortcut. But while everyone from Robin Thicke to Beyoncé has used the symbol as part of their art, only a few have truly taken advantage of its culture-jamming possibilities.
The paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor
"Old Man River" by me
I watch the Mississippi River flow,
And then imagine where the waters go,
Heading, as they are, to the Gulf of Mexico.
Upriver, too, a story can be told
Of one lone molecule,
Ejected from a cloud,
down to a street in Minneapolis.
Running off, on its way to New Orleans,
(Though it doesn’t need a map for this)
Around the riverbends does it careen.
Though it be unaware of the path that it now takes,
I find myself in awe of its unworried derring-do.
And as that little molecule through the river snakes,
It forms not just the river but Americana too.
For as this bit of water and its cousins
Come streaming down the continent
In their unnumbered billions,
The famous Old Man River
Is before my eye created.
And then I realize with a shiver
As the river wind blows by
That what is made is larger
Than what I see with my own eyes:
What those motes have here created
Is a Nation, physically related,
And thereby instantiated.
"Epitaph On The World" by Henry David Thoreau
Here lies the body of this world,
Whose soul alas to hell is hurled.
This golden youth long since was past,
Its silver manhood went as fast,
An iron age drew on at last;
'Tis vain its character to tell,
The several fates which it befell,
What year it died, when ‘twill arise,
We only know that here it lies.
Anybody want to hear a story? Message me a number from 6 - 40 and I’ll tell you a story from that age in my life. (And I’ll ask you for one!)
Message me for a story 4-22!
Oh wow I never noticed that people asked me to reply to this! Here it goes:
14: In 2005, when I was 14, I started high school marching band as a freshman, in August. This is southeast Texas, so the temperature out on the parking lot is in the hundreds routinely, and we’re out there for hours. It broke me out of my cloistered air-conditioned shell in a way I never had been. It was a very boot-camp like experience, one I obviously have not forgotten. It certainly taught me how to deal with authority figures like bosses. I still remember being told to go “grab water,” a much-needed 2-minute sloshfest with giant water thermos’ under the thin metal pavilion beside the parking lot. What I can say though, is that sweat does have a certain cleansing feeling associated with it, as dirty as you feel once you start drying.
17: At age 17, 2008, I was a senior in high school. Hurricane Ike hit the Houston area during September. No major damage was done, at least no flooding (no more than is usual for a hard rain in Houston anyway), but our electricity was out for about two weeks. In the course of that time, mostly out from school, my friends and family and I lived a life more reminiscent of the 19th century than of the 21st, eating from cans, standing in line for ice shipped in from outside, biking to each others’ houses to drink tea on their leaf- and branch-strewn porches. I also taught myself guitar during that time, something I have let go over the intervening years.
19: When I was 19, a sophomore in college, I thought I was as happy as I had ever been. Doing well in college, adapting neatly to independence, and loving learning in a way I had never done in high school, I was full of self-confidence. I even had a girlfriend that was in love with me. Heady days. One time, though, I got really angry with her while we were at a party. I stormed out and started going downstairs (it was in an apartment on a high level), and as I trudged down the stairs I passed two policemen who were, I could tell from my eavesdropping, on their way to bust the party, where my girlfriend and all her friends were. They were high up, so it’s not like they had a back door to escape through. I had about 1 minute to warn her, I realized. However, I did nothing and went home and to bed. (She didn’t get in trouble for underage drinking, in the end, but I still feel ambiguously about the event)