Today’s post comes from Balance Gym Foggy Bottom Front Desk Manager Cassia Denton.
When you hang out with really fit humans, you start to hear the same words pop up in conversation time and time again: Overcome. Obstacles. Growing. Fighting. Toughen up. Push through. Adversity. Strength. Again and again, the fittest amongst us talk about the mental game, conquering your will, overcoming your barriers, working through the pain.
One such really fit human is Joe De Sena. Joe spent most of his life as a pool maintenance man, but through his experiences with adversity and a tough childhood, he came to realize that the greatest successes he found in his life were achieved by a simple premise: forge ahead, no matter the odds.
In 2001, Joe and his partners put this foundational idea towards the creation of Spartan Race, an obstacle race patterned after the rigorous training regimen mandated for all male Spartan citizens in 700 B.C. The obstacles are ugly and grueling, and each obstacle comes with a 30 burpee penalty if you cannot complete the task at hand. The Spartan Race pushes you to crawl through the mud under barbed wire, swim through pools of ice water, climb ropes 50 feet in the air, scale brick walls, and generally have a miserable time.
If you have any doubt that the hashtag is a frighteningly powerful tool in our modern vocabulary, imagine a person you care about texting you that song’s title line out of the blue: “You’re beautiful.” Now think of the same person texting, “You’re #beautiful.” The second one is jokey, ironic, distant—and hey, maybe that’s what that person was going for. But it also hammers home that point that the internet too often asserts: You’re not as original as you once thought. “Beautiful” is analog, unquantifiable, one-in-a-million. #Beautiful, on the other hand, is crowded terrain. Ten more people have just tweeted about something or someone #beautiful since you started reading this sentence.
As more and more of our daily interactions become text-based — people preferring texting to phone calls, workplaces that rely heavily email and instant messaging—we’re developing ways to stretch our written language so it can communicate more nuance, so we can tell people what we mean without accidentally leading them on or pissing them off. Periods have becomemore forceful, commas less essential, and over the last few years, the hashtag has morphed into something resembling the fabled sarcasm font—the official keystroke of irony. Putting a hashtag in front of something you text, email, or IM to someone is a sly way of saying “I’m joking,” or maybe more accurately, “I mean this and I don’t at the same time.””
Thanks to Twitter, the hashtag has become an important linguistic shortcut. But while everyone from Robin Thicke to Beyoncé has used the symbol as part of their art, only a few have truly taken advantage of its culture-jamming possibilities.