ASSOCIATION OF THE HASHTAG | LUCY PAGE
Sunday, 23:36 GMT
Joe B. bit his nails. Better to have his fingers in his mouth, than to risk them trembling over the keyboard and hitting send accidentally twenty-four minutes early.
The homepage of Moroliber– the social media phenomenon that two years before had annexed the entire internet – glared into his cupboard-sized kitchen. Multiple neighbours had complained to him before about his nervous pacing back and forth, as he sometimes did, because apparently the noise stopped them sleeping. Hypocrites, he thought. Everyone eighteen and over in the country was hunched over their screens this time every Sunday, waiting with just the same anxiety.
Joe’s mate Jane was convinced this week’s UK word would be ‘drought’. It was apparently a clever commentary, she’d said, on the unnecessarily slow physical response from the government to the floods in the northern counties. But Joe reckoned the recent #peoplenotpolitics fad would prevent this – everyone was desperate to show they followed more than just mainstream news, to the extent that to make an obvious statement had become the least obvious route to success. Such a statement told your current or future employers that, whilst you weren’t a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic waste of space, you thought too little outside the box for their company. To signal your allegiance to #peoplenotpolitics, or whatever hashtag it was that week, allowed employers to identify you as the next face to hire as proof of their keeping up with the times, or even better, making the weather.
But the worst thing you could do was post nothing at midnight at all – if you had nothing to say, you clearly had something to hide. Nobody wanted to employ a person with something to hide: if it got out on Moroliber, their company could be destroyed in days. At least vocal wastes of space were honest about it, and other wastes of space could hire them. Employing someone who didn’t post at all, by contrast, was like playing Russian roulette with only one empty round.
Joe had changed his mind twelve times already. His past weekly choices had never been sensational, but they had gotten him through; keeping his boss Linda – constantly reminding the office of her Moroliber ‘verified’ friends, and her motto: ‘one word can say a thousand things!’ (accompanied by a toothy smile, always) – happy enough to have him in the team; paying the rent.
There had, however, been a couple of times he’d been dangerously close to cancellation. One Monday in early June, he had chosen to post the word ‘golden’, just after the mining accident in Australia. He’d thought he might have to become a Wi-Fi-less hermit, or find another way to end the public’s attacks for good.
He’d found the word! Insightful enough, but not too mainstream for the hashtag fad followers to make a mockery of it.
Actually, maybe not. It had to be changed.
Still wrong … Joe had heard his boss was looking to let some people go in the reshuffle. He had to get this right.
He was only twenty-six, he couldn’t risk the destruction of his life on one word that he didn’t think through clearly enough on a Sunday night. This word had to be right …
… it was absurd! But what else could you choose to do?
Others’ words were flooding onto the site. Joe saw a few repeats of his choice. Only a few though …
A few more …
@johnnydoesmoro with 89,816 followers had disliked his word. Not his post specifically, but his word. Joe bit off the tip of a nail.
Thank goodness. Linda had liked his post! His job was safe. Joe pumped his fists in the air, stomping around the kitchen until a thumping broomstick from the flat underneath made him calm down. Maybe they’d just been fired. He didn’t care though. He may not have rocketed to social guru status, but victory was his, even if only for a week.