The tag is the soul of the Internet

By | January 16, 2012

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

She raced up the steps to the top of the parking garage. She knew the perfect spot to catch the last gasp of the sun as it set upon Seattle from her location at the university campus.

As she climbed the stairs she pulled out her mobile phone, readying the camera. At the spot she was anticipating to take the photo a tall figure stood, elbows raised. She was not alone in her mission to catch the sunset. It was a man about her age, slightly taller. He was holding his mobile phone, steadying it as he tried to get the autofocus to shift its attention on the spectacular view.

Brushing aside her usual trepidation around new people she walked up next to him. Although he was attractive, that alone would not be good reason to trust him. She pushed out thoughts of bad horror films set in parking garages; getting the perfect shot was more important than paranoia or embarrassment and he was standing in the exact perfect spot. Besides, it was about the art. They were mobile phone photographers, hunting for beauty. Capturing. Sharing.

As she took her shot, he glanced at her.

“Are you going to tweet this?” he asked.

“ha, yeah, probably through instagram,” she replied.

“it’s breathtaking isn’t it?

She despised small talk but it was breathtaking and she had to agree. Her enthusiasm was bolstered by the beautiful view. She thought of all the sunsets she had watched in her life. Some romantic, some heart breaking; a full range of emotions and memories swept through her. This was the first sunset she could remember that was merely an introduction, a first meeting.

“I’m going to tag it #SeattleSunset” she mused aloud, not really to him but more as a note to herself.

“I have a lot of adjectives I’d like to use too. Tags are imperfect. So many ways to describe a moment. How can you tag a summer breeze?”

She glanced at him sideways, not able to tell if he was being facetious or solemnly serious, “#summerbreeze?” she quipped, “I read that The tag is the soul of the internet, you know. Clive Thompson said instagram is like that poem, Thirteen ways to look at a Blackbird. I can’t stop thinking about that”

She finished uploading her gorgeous sunset to instagram and tagged it #SeattleSunset.

“I read Collision Detection too. Heh. Well, I guess you and Clive have got a point,” he said, “Oh, dear. I’m late. Best be on my way,” and with that, he gave a huge smile, turned and walked away.

She stood there and stared at his back for a moment. Two small pieces of paper slipped out from the folder he was holding under his arm and floated silently to the concrete floor. A small breath of air came out of her mouth, but no sound. She watched him disappear.

She turned on her heel and walked in the other direction towards the other staircase, to go down to the second level to her parked car.

Later that evening when she scanned through her instagram feed, she came upon her Seattle sunset photo again. Impulsively she clicked the #SeattleSunset tag which brought her to a set of 158 pictures all tagged the same.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
So many images of the same stunning sun, multiple perspectives, one tag. Skies of red, yellow, purple, blue and gold with intense fluttered clouds were framed by dark silhouetted trees, deciduous and conifers; buildings, from the space needle to low flat strip malls; horizons ranged from very high to very low or non-existent. They all shared that one desire to capture that Seattle sunset and now were linked through their tag.

Would her parking garage rooftop co-conspirator be among them? She couldn’t decide if she should look really intently with that purpose.

If it was meant to be, their tags would align again in the future, she figured.

The tag is the soul of the internet.



I am sad to report this is a complete work of fiction but I do need to give special thanks to @injenuity for her Flash Fiction inspiration (which I just may make a DS106 assignment because I like it so much) and her instagram photo of a Seattle sunset and her subsequent tweets.

I have tagged this as Visual Assignment 272: Picturing Prufrock, because my drawing is an illustration of a poem, just not specifically T.S. Elliot’s poem. I am taking the assignment in the broadest sense. Artistic license!

11 thoughts on “The tag is the soul of the Internet

  1. Sandy Brown Jensen

    Wonderful example of digital storytelling! I wish Borges could have lived to understand it all. Meta, meta, meta all the way. I love your use of the romantic intrigue genre, perfect for the sunset imagery.

    I’ll add a meta twist to it and say I am a graduate of the University of Washington and often climbed to high places to photograph the city…probably even your high place. That would have been (ahem!) 1970-72.

    Super creative work, soul sister!

  2. Bryan

    This is a bloody brilliant piece of writing that begins with a conversation I remember passing through my twitter & instagram feeds (I actually have a picture of the same sunset) and ends tied in a perfect bow: the soul of the Internet.


  3. Alan Levine

    Two kindred souls share a thread of connection via a tag and an eye for photos. Like Bryan said, this is exciting to see a narrative woven amongst real actions.

    And even more goodness for linking in Clive Thompson’s post; I enjoy almost all of his writings, but that one is especially key for me.

  4. Jabiz Raisdana

    This was such a beautiful and touching post. The concept of tags could have been written about in a much more academic and sterile form, but you chose to bring out the poetry of connected and shared experience through tagging. Thank you for articulating my feelings about tagging in such a tender and poignant post.

    On a side note, I love the labyrinths and worm holes I fund when I start following tags and users on Instagram.

  5. Keri-Lee Beasley

    [Oooh, thanks Jabiz for pointing me in this direction!]

    This struck a chord with me, definitely. A lot of times, I find myself trying to explain (justify?) why I use social media like Twitter & Instagram. Some of my friends don’t yet understand the sense of community these shared windows into people’s lives can bring. The thought that a stranger might understand that better than a friend is strangely comforting to me – even if it is a work of fiction!

    Thank you for a post that made me smile, think and reflect.

  6. Jen

    This is much more romantic than the real story. Maybe? I’d had the phone out grabbing pics all up the hill. Before I went into the garage, I’d been standing on a wall near Broadway. I couldn’t quite get the shot. I realized I could get it from the top of the garage. I’d already run down the 6 stories in my building and up the hill, thanks to a tweet from @nancywhite.
    So I ran up the garage steps. I peeked out a window on the 5th floor, but it wasn’t high enough. I ran up to 7, only to realize the view was marred by power lines. I moved around, tried zooming in, and mostly decided I was wasting a sunset fudging with the camera. So I watched. And then I heard someone behind me.
    I was happy to share the sunset, but realized there were no cars there, so whomever it was, hadn’t come for a car.
    He said he saw me running and knew I must have known about the view, so he followed, but it was too late. He had his camera out, but I don’t think he took any photos there. Maybe before he got to the roof. And it wasn’t an iPhone, so it wouldn’t be on instagram.
    We talked about how gorgeous it was. I said I’d been at my desk, waiting out the rush hour traffic, when I saw someone post about the sunset. He said something about how we’re tweeting sunsets. It didn’t sound optimistic.
    He left first, and did drop a paper on the steps, a red brochure. I was babbling stupidly about never remembering where I parked. He walked back up a few steps to get the brochure, and went on his way. Then I wandered up and down the stairs, looking for my lost car!
    You made this a much better story. It’s both sweet and informative 🙂

  7. Giulia Post author

    Thanks everyone for your kind comments. It felt like a bit of a risk to move away from my comfort zone of animated GIFS and trying a writing assignment for DS106.
    Jen, I’m glad you like the story; so much of it is based entirely on your tweets and experience as you can see. Thanks for filling in the blanks; now I see it was actually a tale of star crossed platforms, for you have an iphone and he, an android (or blackberry?)…

  8. Jen

    I have iPhone and Android, his didn’t seem to be a smart phone. It flipped open. Well, closed. I prefer to think he was capturing the moment for a sweetie someplace, or maybe a bedridden parent. Maybe I interrupted his moment.

  9. Rodd Lucier

    I loved this story…
    Tags may be the soul of the internet, but as we’ve moved from sharing text, to sharing images, to sharing voices, the kindred spirits of creators have begun holding hands.

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