by Heather Murphy
That the above means something to almost anyone who reads it causes me undue stress. Not just the symbol (though that is producing some major stress) but the entire first part of my title. The descent into electronic grunting has got me down. The second part of my title will make you laugh when you discover my naïveté and how it led to a Three’s Company moment for me that caused my friend to actually physically drop her smart phone when the laughter took over her entire body and the phone was just in the way.
Ok, so I wrote a post called “The Case of the Missing People” and amazingly, it was freshly pressed and put on the front page of WordPress. I was new and had very little idea of what it meant to be freshly pressed. It was my third post on a multi-authored blog called Letters to Pomona. It had been up for a couple of weeks or something, when suddenly, one day my gmail inbox was crammed, pages full, with comment and like notifications from WordPress concerning this post.
At first I thought there was some error and my post had somehow created a tidal wave of spam via some new virus. I worried that people I knew would be affected and get mad at me. My posts had never been read by more than a small handful of people, so something had to be amiss. I looked more closely at the avatars and names of the people and they looked…totally on the up and up. I was flummoxed. I wondered how the hell they found the post, why so many?
I logged onto our WordPress “Stats” page and began the process of decoding it. It had little maps of where traffic was coming from, a table showing the flow of traffic, and even a spot that showed from whence the traffic came, Internet-wise. I looked at the “Referrers” section and squinted.
I slowly realized I’d been freshly pressed. I thought, “Holy shit, this is like that thing on flickr, where they “explore” the best photography, through some mysterious algorithm and you hope they will pick yours up so it can be seen by like a jillion people all over the world and you can get tons of feedback from all kinds of characters and be thought of as not-obsolete for awhile and perhaps bask in it and feel groovy.” That’s what I thought. And I started to get excited.
Now, goddamn google had changed my inbox situation not long before this whole thing happened. They decided to put mail that wasn’t personal into two other folders, and I just went along with it and was like, “Oh, that’s probably a good idea,” or something like that, so I never got any letter from WordPress explaining what happened to me. I had to sleuth it out on my own. It was days later that I found the nice email from a WordPress editor named Cheri, hiding in another folder. The one that explained everything.
I found the “freshly pressed” page and decided to read some of the posts and damn, they were good. This was way cool. Now we were getting followers, people who would become an actual audience to consider. I started checking them out, these followers and comment makers and reading their stuff. I saw the little maps on the stats page showing that they were reading it all over the world, including countries I have never heard of. Or maybe it was a couple of islands with new names.
I was deeply curious about these people who had taken the time to read my work and I wanted to reciprocate. One night, while playing this fun game of spying on the likers, I noticed someone had clicked on one of my tags that was the word, “hash”. I read her blog and it was some young woman from a city who likes to smoke marijuana and make love to men and write poetry about it while smoking marijuana. It was good stuff. The use of the word in my post that led to it being chosen as a tag was something to the effect of, “When my parents held court with their hash and quadrophonic stereo…” so it wasn’t like I was discussing hash or anything. But I do like to use lots of tags, so it just got sucked in.
Next day, same thing, another interesting person who clicked on the word, “hash”. I didn’t think much of it. There were other words that got the real clicks, like “memoir” and “writing.”
So, finally to the funny part. With a preface, of course: I don’t currently have a cell phone because I live in the mountains and blah blah blah, and when I did text, on my last phone, I might have said “lol” and “ttyl” but I’m over forty and that is as far as my wisdom of using the choices on the pad to abbreviate my electronic communications go. I don’t employ symbols. It’s because they mean nothing to me, unless I am using them as answers because an automated voice has prompted me to do so.
That being said, I have no idea wtf a hashtag is, okay? It’s ironic because I just wrote a little story from a kid’s point of view where they assume “draft dodger” has something to do with baseball. I really identify with this kid.
Ok, the totally, really real getting-to-the-point-part is now. I went back onto freshly pressed again because now I wanted to read all that good stuff, and I came across this one freshly pressed post, and it’s actually right near mine and it’s this guy talking about how people have to do the dumbest things to get noticed and he’s using all these clever metaphors and it’s good writing and then he says something like, “and if you have to use hashtags to get noticed….” or something like that, and I think, “Oh my god! What? Does he mean me? Like I got noticed because I used a hash tag? Does he really think that? Only like four people clicked on that word, come on!” and I was hot-cheeked to write a response to his post, I hastily banged out, “Hashtags? I resemble this comment! Is it a coincidence that I read this post?!” wondering how long it would take him to respond.
And then I went to my edits page and I deleted that goddamn word, “hash” in my tag section, feeling like a small town slut in a room full of virginal Smith graduates, all squirmy and looking for someone to punch. Who the hell was he to judge me?
That was a month or more ago. The other day, was it today? I don’t know where, I heard it spoken aloud–that word that I never knew was a word, or is it two: “hashtag”! Was that from the television? On the phone with my text abbreviation expert of a best friend, though I had no clue yet what text abbreviations or phone pad symbols had to do with anything, I asked her, “Have you heard of a ‘hashtag’? What the hell is it?” I suddenly knew there was a blogger out there who thought I was nuts. No wonder he never responded to my comment.
She told me about the little tic-tac-toe symbol and the use of it to preface a tweet or something, and I didn’t know what the hell she was on about. It took a while to explain it, and how if you used two of them it was like grabbing someone’s arm instead of just yelling, like one hashtag denoted, and when I told her about my post and the use of the word hash and that guy who was ridiculing me, she dropped her smart phone, like I told you. She ROFL@me, just like when we were kids and she had to tell me that ‘soap boppers’ were shows grown-ups watched in the day-time, not something you take in the bathtub.