#hashtags

I have finally come to realize it. I am slowly coming to terms with it as well.

I am horrible with hashtags. For a while I was not sure whether the correct form of the word is hashtag or hash tag with a space in between. Doing some hasty research for this post has revealed that hashtag the word was only updated in OED this past June [someone should tell my word processing software that]. Many times I have come across hilariously appropriate tags in posts that after entertaining me for several precious seconds [or as long as it takes to scroll on to the next thing], make me realize why I am glad my livelihood does not depend on me coming up with groovy hashtags for content. I can merely experience this from a distance and admire the creativity of the posters. Usually when I use hashtags for anything, I pick the most obvious ones. The other day I posted a picture of books and after much thought tagged it ingeniously with #books, #read and #reading. The metadata gods must have chalked up a special place for me in their book of #utter #disappointments.

I am also fascinated by those who hashtag everything that they type. Instagram photos of coffee that start somewhere in the neighborhood of #coffee, #coffeeart, #flower, #weekend, somehow end up in the vicinity of #deepthought, #bestfriends, #followme #sunset #love and so forth. To each his own, and I’m all for expression. But I do not have the talent to make a story out of hashtags that have a beginning, a middle, an end and some side notes to take away with it.

Hashtags are infinitely cool though. They are the electronic links to connect your creative output with those of others who select the same words to represent their own thoughts and ideas. Activists, protesters, marketeers, promoters, do-gooders and feel-gooders – hashtags decide who you are and what you are saying. You do not even need to form a full sentence. Just tag and you’re it! You win the approval or get the vote or stand by something with just a #. The demand for justice for horrible crimes is hashtagged. Campaigns worth millions of dollars are based on specialized hashtags that form the crux of the message. This is the direction social media has gone with and it works.

Personally I feel good about something that I came across while writing this. The number one hashtag in Instagram is #love. Love. There are more than 600 million photos that the users thought had something to do with love. There were more than 600 million instances of someone spending the few seconds it takes to type #love to link with something they took a photo of. There are more than 600 million posts about a concept that makes us feel good, that makes us feel special, that some of us strive for all our lives and that some of us really need. Love is one of the most powerful emotions there is. Love builds us and it breaks us. Love is what a lot of stuff around is really about. Maybe half of those 600 million photos had little to do with the literal meaning of love and the posters just wanted to be linked to the most popular hashtag. But I consider even a weak association as proof to it being a good thing. Love is popular. That has to be a good #sign for us.

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Back to School

For the last one week I’ve been an early bird. Wake up at 6 am, get ready for work. Pick up my 6 year old nephew and drop him at school. Go to this class I’m taking. Then commute to work. It’s a break from the usual mornings I have. Not exactly life changing stuff but it does give the thought process a little bit of a workout. A mild jog, if not a run.

As I approach my nephew’s school, the hum from a hundred too-awake-for-7-am kids screaming in the playground hits me. And it’s like it’s the 90s all over again. I’m sitting inside the car, bored and sleepy. I get off and get inside my classroom. Depending on which year I’ve landed in this flashback, I either run about with the other kids playing or sit around talking about everything and nothing outside class. Class starts. I am anxious about forgetting to bring a book.

I was so bloody terrified of not bringing a book that we had class for. The teachers were unusually anal about books and notebooks being brought to class. It was their weird way of injecting us with some discipline and responsibility. I was not scared of the punishment. I just did not want to ‘forget to bring the book’. It scared me and the days I did forget to bring the book I spent the whole time like I was awaiting my own execution till that class was due. The days I brought the stuff I needed, all passed smoothly.

I was not the most popular; neither was I a wall-flower. I had Friends, Best Friends, Acquaintances. There were some who did not like me or were indifferent. I was not the best at everything but I had good balance [school prefect, above average grades, a great friend, no athletic abilities, no hotness whatsoever]. I read a lot and wrote a lot and watched a lot of documentaries and movies and cartoons and this added to stuff I had to say. I hid my insecurities as best as I could amid my extraordinarily confident friends who grew up at an unbelievable pace before my own eyes. I was lucky not to have been bullied or been the subject of mental torture that kids go through sometimes. I was a tomboy and ‘one of the guys’ and I was totally okay with it. I remember school being hot [we did not have air conditioning till we became upperclassmen as seniors] and fast. I remember the anticipation of the last bell, the agitation of being picked up late, the consternation of trying to remember history dates. I met my best friends for life amid the wooden chairs and crowded play-ground. From them I understood I could be so much more, and I already had so much more for them to pick up on. I remember feeling I did not quite belong but also realizing I could not imagine school being anything other than the sum of all the little parts I was experiencing every day.

Suffice to say, I miss school. I miss sitting in class, and backpacks, and notebooks. I would do anything to sit through the horrible chemistry class that I absolutely hated for just one more day. I would love to wait for school to end for just one more day. It would be great to be able to be a kid again for just one more day.

A Circus Act

The tightrope walker was right in the middle of the rope now, his feet perfectly aligned and balanced. His arms were extended out into the air. He focused on his feet and the rope, feeling like he was an extension of it.

He ignored the flashbulbs, the quiet murmur from the audience. He ignored the sweat on his palms, the slight thump of his heart as it protested from being put into such a situation.

He took another step. The end was a long way away from where he stood.

His glance caught the scene right below him- what seemed like miles down. His fellow performers looked up at him. The ground crew waited.

And suddenly, he realized, he did not have a net.

His whole body went rigid with shock. Which was, in such a situation, a blessing.

He glanced down at the Ringmaster.

Where the hell is my net??

The Ringmaster looked at him, confused. What net? Since when do you use a net? You’re the star performer just because you never use a net. People come to see you because they know that any performance might be your last.

The tightrope walker swallowed. He felt lightheaded. He did not know if this was a sick joke or if he was dreaming. Why would he say that he never used a net?

Right then and there, he had a mental conversation with his Ringmaster.

The Ringmaster said, you always pretended you had a net to fool your mind into believing it’s safe. And pretty soon you started believing in it.

The tightrope walker reigned in his fears and thought it was best to focus on the walk to the other side without worrying too much about the missing net.

But he couldn’t push the feeling away. He was too scared of falling into the abyss. He knew that he had performed previously only because he knew there was a net below to catch him if he fell. He liked the guarantee that if he went down, it would not be the end.

And now his guarantee, his safety net was gone.

He was all alone, standing on a tightrope, weak and powerless.

The audience watched with bated breath, waiting for him to fall.