Tag Archives: twitter

H is for #Hashtags

About a week ago, I tried to explain hashtags to someone. I know that many people find them confusing or annoying, so here’s the basic explanation that I gave:


I think of hashtags as a “file under” notice. They’re a way for people on social networking sites to find conversations of interest. I can go to Tweetdeck and search for “#amwriting” and be instantly connected to thousands of people using that hashtag while they’re talking about what they’re doing (their projects, excerpts, frustrations, questions, quirky observations, whatever).

#MyWANA connects me to a specific online community.

#CampNaNoWriMo shows me who’s talking about that.

#TheWalkingDead (#TWD? I have no idea, I just picked a show) would show me open conversations people are having about that show, and I could jump in if I wanted to (hashtags indicate that you want the conversation/tweet/instagram post/whatever to be searchable)

The # is important because it shows that this is the topic of conversation, not just a random word that might show up in any context if I just searched for it.


What gets confusing is that it has also become a way of commenting on one’s own posts in an amusing or snarky way, but the “file under” idea still helps me understand the concept.

It’s not part of the actual post, but it can make an amusing comment on it.

I used hashtags both ways there: #amwriting made the post visible to everyone following that hashtag, and several responded to me. #notsomuch was a comment on the fact that I wasn’t actually writing, because I had no R. It’s unlikely that anyone is searching for #notsomuch and wants to jump in on the conversation, but it’s sort of an amusing post-script.

There’s no rule that says you have to like hashtags. You’re allowed to think that they’re annoying. Heck, they CAN be annoying. If your tweets look like this:

#buymybook #fantasy with #dragons and #magic #romance #kindle #99centsale #freeifyouwantit #somebodypleasevalidateme #loveme #godimsoalone

…I’m going to skip right over that*. It IS irritating. I’ll probably mute you or unfollow if that’s all you tweet. Likewise for Facebook– I’m not even going to attempt to decode a status that looks like that.

See also:


All I’m saying is that when used responsibly (ie not excessively), hashtags can be a way to connect with people who have similar interests, or they can be a fun way to comment on one’s own status**, tweet, instagram post, whatever. Just don’t over-use or abuse them if you want people to actually read your posts.

Whether you actually find it amusing is entirely personal. I won’t judge you if you want to sit on your porch and yell at those darned kids with their hashtags and their loud music. I just want to make sure we all understand what’s going on. 🙂

Oh, and PS– watch your hashtag use. Abusing them to get attention is not only annoying (and therefore counterproductive), it could get you Twitter account suspended. Kristen Lamb advises against using hashtags in automated tweets, because it’s kind of rude to throw something into a conversation and not be there if people respond. I agree completely.

If you want more on how hashtags are used online and in real life, Wikipedia has an interesting article on it.

Want more A-Z fun? Mosey in this direction.


*I get so many of these in my twitter feed that I’ve stopped reading the main stream. I only read from my “real tweets” list, which is where I stick everyone who tweets things that are interesting and/or entertaining, or at least posts about things that are not #buymybook #buymybook #fortheloveofgodbuymybok

**As far as I can tell, this function is basically worthless on Facebook unless people’s posts are public. I guess it would work for business pages that are looking for views, though.




One Day At The Garage: A Tale in Tweets

For anyone who missed it elsewhere, or who only got half of the story on Facebook, here’s what happened on Wednesday:

We’d known for a while that the Santa Fe (Tina) needed welding done on her front flex pipe. My husband finally got us booked in for that*, and we asked them to put our winter tires on at the same time. No problem.

Then last week, our rear brakes started grinding. We parked the car on the side lawn, as all the classy people do, and asked the garage if they’d look at those when we came in, too.

The morning of our appointment got off to a rough start. I’d had a migraine the day before, and was suffering from severe mental fuzziness, the kind that makes you feel like your brain is wrapped in a cozy-yet-incredibly-stupid angora sweater. Still, I got away in good time, made it half-way to Gander …

…and realized that the snow tires were still in the shed.

For a moment, I became this meme.

For a moment, I became this meme.

After slamming my head repeatedly into the steering wheel, I let AJ know and turned around. He and Ike met me part-way with the tires, and I made it to the garage just in time.

And AJ didn’t make me feel badly about it. Best husband EVER.

I dropped the car off at 10, and got to spend a few hours on my own.

Things were going well. I did some shopping, and even got some work done at the coffee shop.

At 2:15, they called to say the rear brakes were shot. Not just the pads, but the rotors, everything. Also, they couldn’t weld that flex pipe, so yeah, that’d be another $700 for a new one. We’re looking at $1400-1600 in work, how’s that for you?

Not great, but we had no choice about the brakes. I enjoy stopping. I said “go ahead with those,” they said “shouldn’t take too long,” I walked back.

And I waited.

And they told me that more brake parts were rusted out and needed to be replaced. They could get the parts, but yeah, more money, pls and thanx.

And so I waited. And waited. And it needed more parts, and they couldn’t get one part, so they cleaned it instead. And I waited.

…and that resolution didn’t last long, because I was, in fact, bored out of my be-sweatered skull. Here’s how the rest of my afternoon unfolded:

(tried to write, too distracted)

So then things got weird…

Oh, did I mention that AJ had to work at 4, and I didn’t get out of there until 4:30, and then had to drive the 45 minutes to get home?


Would have been fine if not for that whole “leaving kids alone in the house is bad” thing.

Well, I won’t leave you all hanging. I did get home, driving in the dark and the rain, but on snow tires and with good brakes. AJ got to work, better late than never.

Our bank account was depleted by almost $700, with more to go ASAP, but we’ll be okay. Yes, things would be easier if I were making money, but that’s just not happening right now. My job is to juggle the books so we still get a very merry Christmas. It’s all good…

…assuming they don’t find more stuff to fix when we get that front flex pipe replaced.


*Some of you know that I suffer from a social anxiety/phobia relating to making phone calls. It’s horrible and inconvenient and screws up my life, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

A Few Honest Questions About Twitter

Not a rant. Actual questions about the benefits of having lots of Twitter followers who probably aren’t listening to you. Those of you who think Twitter is pointless (hi, Mom!*) probably can’t help me out here, but maybe someone else can. Feel free to skip the ruminating and go right to the questions at the end, if you’d like.

I like Twitter. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s a great place to leave my strange thoughts without having to see the way people look at me when I say them out loud.

But I think I’m doing it wrong, at least according to many people. I don’t have a lot of followers. I’m not interested in having followers who aren’t going to read me, because what’s the point of talking to people who aren’t listening? I don’t follow many people for the same reason. I follow accounts that have something to offer, whether that’s interesting links, entertaining thoughts, great conversations, whatever. If you follow me, I’ll usually take a look at your account; if your stuff looks genuine and interesting, great! But if all you’re doing is promoting your book or service ten times a day or recycling the same tweets over and over, I’m not going to follow you back. Likewise, if I find someone interesting and follow them, I don’t expect them to reciprocate if they don’t like what I post. To me, it’s about the content, not the number of follows.

My questions are about people who are about the numbers, at least partially. Case study (which got me thinking about this): I’m following at least one person now who, every day, posts numbers of new followers and numbers of “sneaky” people who unfollowed him/her. I find it extremely annoying, but I can’t unfollow, because I don’t want to be accused of sneakiness.

My question is, why does it matter who unfollows us, unless we’re only looking for reciprocal follows? If someone unfollows me, I assume it’s because they aren’t getting what they want from my tweets (sorry it didn’t work out, thanks for trying me), or they only followed me to get me to follow them back, and I didn’t do it (don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Sweetie). Either way, they’re free to go, and it won’t affect whether I read their tweets or not.

There are apps/programs/whatever that will tell you whether people you’ve followed have followed you back, so you don’t have to keep following them if they didn’t follow you. (Still with me?) Obviously the assumption is that people are only following each other to get more followers, right? And I doubt very much that they’re actually reading each other. They’re either not reading anyone, or are using apps to filter out most of the thousands of accounts they’re following.

As far as I can tell, what we end up with is crowded stadiums full of people yelling their promotions and messages, but no one is listening to each other, even though it looks like they have a whole lot of people listening. It’s like those things you see on Facebook sometimes: Like my page and I’ll like yours, and we’ll all have a lot of likes, YAYS! Except that no one really cares about those pages, and they’re not actually paying attention to each other. They’re empty “likes,” just like these Twitter accounts are offering empty follows.

Am I wrong? Is there actually some benefit to following 5000 people and having 5000 followers when there’s no way you can actually read all of them, and they’re probably not reading you because they’re only following you to get more follows for themselves, which is the same reason you’re following them?

Are we all confused yet?

*head explodes*

So tell me, Twitter people: Do you follow more accounts than you actually read? Do you use a program to filter out people you don’t want to read, and do you think that those un-read people still benefit from having you as a follower? (Honest question, I’m not accusing you of anything). Am I wrong, and people who follow 4000 accounts are actually looking at them all? Is it a big popularity contest that I’m losing by just looking for valuable content and a community I can connect with? Do you only follow people who follow you back?

I’ve purchased Kristen Lamb’s book “Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World.” Maybe it will answer some of these questions.

Just to clarify: I have nothing against people using twitter however they please. I’m just curious. 🙂

*Did I tell you my mom has a WordPress blog now? She’s pretty nice, if you want to stop by and say “hello.” 🙂

Would You Rather Be Right, or Kind?

It’s a question that’s been attacking me from several angles this week.

It started, I suppose, with a Facebook post from Grammarly called “25 Common Phrases That You’re Saying Wrong”. It was an interesting post, listing commonly misused phrases and the correct versions. Go have a look, I’ll wait.

Fun, right? I’ve been saying all of them correctly except for number four, but I found the (repeated) explanations in the comments section very interesting. I also realized that I don’t use the phrase “you’ve got another thing/think coming,” because I can’t think of a situation when using that wouldn’t be rude or condescending. But that’s not the point.

The comments were enlightening in another way. Many of the comments were of the “I didn’t know that, thanks!” variety,  some were debating the correctness of numbers four and 24, and seemingly hundreds were of the “It’s WRONGLY, not WRONG, dumbass” variety. But a number of comments ran in the self-righteous, “I’ve never used any of these phrases incorrectly, and anyone who has is an idiot. Why bother speaking English if you can’t do it properly?” vein.

As I was reading through the comments, a realization bit me on the nose. Are you ready for it?

These people sound like assholes, and I don’t want to be one of them.

Yes, it bothers me when people use the wrong form of “your/you’re” in anything more formal than a Facebook status, because I think clarity in expression is important, and glaring errors distract me from the message a person is trying to convey or the story they’re trying to tell.  I have been tempted to carry post-it notes and a black Sharpie in my purse so I can correct errors on signs without actually committing vandalism. I think it’s ridiculous that “irregardless” is in the dictionary, and that “literally” is now literally defined as “figuratively.”

I love English, messy pawn-shop of a language that it is, and I cringe when it’s (not its) abused.

But I’ll tell you something: I don’t love it enough to think that it’s more important than being kind. I don’t ever want to be one of those small-minded jerks who reads someone’s tweet about their dog dying and corrects the message’s grammar instead of offering sympathy.

Perfect example of what I mean: In the comments on that Grammarly post, several people said that when they ask someone, “How are you?” and the person says “Good,” they want to walk away from the conversation.

Did you catch that? Because someone said “good” instead of “well,” these self-proclaimed grammar nazis* consider that person beneath them, not worthy of notice or care. They’re more concerned with a correct response than with the fact that maybe that person said “good” with a tear in her eye or a dishonest wobble in his voice.

No, they’d rather be right than be kind.

I don’t want to be like that. I also don’t want to deal with people like that, so I think from now on I’m going to say “good” whenever someone asks me how I’m doing.  That should weed a few of them out.

This issue goes far beyond grammar, of course. That was just the first incandescent brain-flash I got this week. It applies to so many things in life. Take Batfleck (or whatever people are calling this “issue”). I understand thinking that someone made a bad casting decision for a movie. I also understand that this is important to many people. Discussing these things can be interesting, and expressing passion is important.

But when you look at the comments on Twitter and the posts on Facebook, something becomes apparent very quickly. People are more concerned with seeming clever than with the fact that they’re ripping an actual human being apart with their personal insults. “I think _______ would have been a better choice for Batman” is an opinion, and there’s nothing wrong with it. “Dare-Douche can’t be batman” is also an opinion, but it’s attempting to be hurtful to a real person. It’s also not particularly clever, and there are a lot out there that are far crueler, but you get my point. People are going for laughs, for “look how clever and wonderful I am” rather than trying to actually add something relevant and useful to the discussion.

Again, they’d rather be right (or funny, or admired by their Twitter followers) than be kind.

Have you looked at reviews of popular books on Goodreads lately? Scandals and kerfuffles aside, there are a whole lot of negative reviews that consist entirely of GIFs and statements like “_________ is the worst writer ever and should give up now” and “nice try, sweetie, better luck next time.”

I can’t and won’t claim that I’m innocent in this. I’ve made fun of celebrities who I won’t name here. I get frustrated when people are famous for being famous, or for apparently being pregnant for two years, or for spreading glitter and bad decisions like confetti. I’ve wondered out loud how people can enjoy certain books that are either badly-written or that make pre-teen girls swoon over stalkers. And there’s a place for honest criticism, for talking about the larger issues that these things bring to light, for sharing concerns over young women flocking to Twitter to beg a certain singer to beat them up because he’s OMG SO HAWT. But when it comes to the balance of being right or kind, I’m going to be making some changes. I’m going to make sure that when I share my opinions I’m focusing on my concerns or on the issues– not on insulting the celebrity/author/politician in a personal way, and certainly not on insulting the people who love their work.

This isn’t about pretending everything is sunshine and rainbows, or wanting to buy the world a Coke, or why can’t we all just get along, guys? There’s a place for honest criticism, for fans expressing their opinions on casting decisions in movies, and for defending the integrity of our language (b3caws engush is gr8, guise). There are issues that need to be discussed, even if there are people who are going to have their feelings hurt because they have different opinions. I’m not saying that I’m going to hold in my thoughts and opinions until I explode, just because I think someone won’t like what I say.

This is about me (just me) trying to make a small change. Before I open my mouth or set fingers to keyboard, I’m going to take a minute to ask, “why am I saying this?” If I’m adding to a discussion in a productive way, or if I’m offering gentle correction because I want to help someone or improve a situation, I’ll go ahead. If I’m just talking for the sake of talking, if I’m trying to sound clever or make myself feel smart because I’m right and someone else is wrong, or if I’m saying something that’s hurtful to someone on a personal level, I’m going to back off.

I’ve decided that for me, being kind is more important than being right. It’s not going to be easy to let go of my snarkiness over celebrities; I suspect I’ll be a work in progress for quite some time.

But there you go. I’m going to try.

(Please forgive me if none of this made sense. There’s an invisible troll trying to drive a foot-long section of rebar through the right side of my cranium this morning, and it’s throwing me off a bit.)

*Yes, a phrase with its own significant problems, but we’ll leave that for another time. This is dragging on as it is.

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