Every time we hear that something has "gone viral," we assume that the whole world is paying attention. Of course, we're usually talking about a cat playing the violin or a man who can make his bottom sing the French national anthem.
This weekend, the mechanism of Twitter was used to rage against the machine. The rage, as they say, went viral.
Tweeters offered, for example, that Washington had the compromising skills of a 3-year-old. Which is odd, given that many in Congress seem to enjoy compromising situations that would surely be scorned by most of the world's 3-year-olds.
Yesterday, in a post on his blog and Google+ (how could it be anywhere else?) Jarvis explained that, for him, the greatest triumph was not that the hashtag attained some virality, but that it offered hope for the future of the hashtag.
The hashtag, he said, is hopeful because it cannot be controlled.
"A hashtag is open and profoundly democratic," he said. "People gather around a hashtag. They salute it and spread it or ignore it and let it wither. They imbue it with their own meaning. The creator quickly and inevitably loses control of it."
It seems to have taken a little loss of control on Jarvis' part to create the hashtag. He admitted he had been fueled by a little pinot. It was a fuel that drove around 84,000 tweets, although, mysteriously, the hashtag reportedly never showed up in Twitter's trending list. (Oddly, this hasn't yet lead to a #f***youtwitter hashtag.)
Yet, as Jarvis himself admits, #f***youwashington seems largely to have run out of gas. But not before sad, small people who happen to live in Washington have been able to express their sheer horror at being lumped in with the lumpenbourgeoisie of the politicians.
Those who, perhaps, regularly waft onto Twitter to express themselves have now mutated their anger to a new hashtag: #taxtherich.
While Jarvis clings onto the notion that, in time, more people will be free to express themselves around the hashtags of the day, perhaps the truth of the human condition lies in other hashtags-- the ones that are trending on Twitter.
As of yesterday evening, Twitterers seemed to care about #thingswelearnedontwitter (sample: that celebrities are like every people).
Next comes #Beltran, the understandably important musings of those excited by the idea that the Mets' Carlos Beltran will come to the civilization represented by the San Francisco Giants.
Then we have #rappernames (sample: "Lil Greasy, all you haters just slide off me.")
Many will have sympathy with Jarvis' belief that somehow, somewhere, the voice of the people will be heard.
But there is a reason why politicians behave in the sleazy, self-centered, pocket-lining, grubby, duplicitous way that they do. (Could there be a more appropriate symbol for the true nature of politicians than one Anthony Weiner Twitpic?)
It's a reason that Twitter hashtags do, generally, express very clearly: We the people care far more about the things that don't matter than the things that do.