Hashtags

Thinking woman“Hashtag (#)@susanswedding. All pictures welcome. Hashtag (#)@johnsmith. Where were you when…Joe Brown commented on his Facebook timeline having coffee at the station. ‘Like’ his comment and see all comments instantly by going to Facebook…”

            What’s all this about? Does it mean anything or is it gibberish; or, perhaps, is it gibberish that does mean something? The direct translation, if you’re not a Twitter, Facebook or Google fan, is that if you’ve taken pictures, any pictures, of Susan at her wedding or John Smith doing anything at all, you can link them to these universal codes for these people, designated by the Hashtags (#) in front of their social media names. Joe Brown also said something while he was having coffee before leaving the station this morning, and you must rush onto Facebook to see not only what he said at that moment, but what all his friends (of whom you’re supposed to be one) said about what he said.  There’s no doubt it’s all a new and developing language, much akin to the truckers’ CB slang of a former generation, but this one is a lot harder to figure out.

            It’s not the decoding that’s most confounding about the social media commotion. It’s the fact that anyone would want or need to discuss their most mundane daily activities in public, share their personal, unedited pictures, and just as inexplicable is the fact that anyone else would care.  It certainly tells us who we think we are, or wish we were, but the acceptance and growth of social media over the past decade is more about time compression than self-absorption. Taking hold world-wide, it’s not just a product of our American culture, and it says something fundamental about the ether our world spins in today. But if we’re all trying to rush information out in a desperate bid to share it and get the reactions of others, when do we take time to go inside ourselves to consider? How can we be less distracted by outside noise so we can be more aware of the magical, serendipitous connections of life? Aren’t we missing something?

            Recently, a friend of mine, a young-ish professional athlete who uses Facebook mostly to connect with other athletes and market her commission-based personal training business, told me she wondered if the social media craze would lead (or already has) to a generation of people who can’t stand their own company. ‘If you have to tell everyone what you’re looking at while you sit and drink your morning coffee at the station, does that rob you of the chance to think about what you’re experiencing, seeing or doing inside your own head?’ She has a very good point. Are people so afraid of being alone with themselves they simply have to make noise? We both seemed to come to that conclusion at the same moment without saying so, because we were already inside our own thoughts.

            Isn’t it the duty of age to quiet the noise? Is self-acceptance impossible before we’ve done many things and walked a myriad of paths with a lot of other people first? And is it possible that growing up in a world of self-promotion will make self-knowledge almost impossible or even worse, unwanted at any age? Anything’s possible, but I think that dire result is unlikely.  I have a feeling the pendulum will swing just as far the other way, someday, and the premium people will put on privacy and peace will be enormous. It’s a simple law of physics—the opposite and equal reaction.

            That does leave one, or at least me, with a question as to why people have become so uncomfortable with their own privacy they have to employ hashtags to suggest a worldwide fascination with their daily activities. I know they don’t want to miss out on anything, but it seems obvious that they already have. Since our fast-paced culture is bent on beating everyone else to the news, I suggest informing the world that you’re signing off Twitter forever and closing down your personal Facebook page. #@theunblockedwriter says stillness fosters happiness and creativity. #@myimagination is alive and well.

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