November 8, 2018
But soft (focus)! What light through yonder hashtag breaks?
by Susan Rella
Surprising absolutely no people, The Bard is unequivocally the most-Instagrammed author in the history of the App Which Shows You What You’d Look Like As A Cat.
So sayeth Maddy Foley over at Bustle, reporting on a study by UK–based writer Rebecca Armstrong, who looked to Google as well as Instagram to help her figure out the trendingiest author. Armstrong, who works for McGowan Transcription, posted her findings on her company’s rather innocuous blog. Originally published back in September, it wasn’t until earlier this month that Bustle picked up the story — and it’s got some bitchin’ infographics that we hope make it far and wide and turn Armstrong into the wealthiest transcriptionist ever.
“To build her ranking system, Armstrong looked not only at the popularity of an author’s name, but at the names of specific works and ‘peak’ popularity times,” Foley reports. And though William Shakespeare was the clear winner, what set him apart wasn’t just his name (although #shakespeare and #williamshakespeare have over two million hits combined), but the fact that his bibliography is so extensive. A full 22 of his works have been turned into hashtags, with #RomeoandJuliet claiming 38 percent of Shakespeare’s 1.5 million literature mentions (but would #RomeoandJuliet retain their dear perfection if not #RomeoandJuliet hashtagged?) (I’m very sorry.).
Coming in second is J.R.R. Tolkien, and third is Edgar Allen Poe — but what is so fascinating about these also-rans is how dependent they are on outside stimuli. Tolkein gets a bump whenever a new movie comes out, and Poe sees a spooky Insta-increase each Halloween. And lest you think literary Instagram is one sepia-toned sausage fest, Maya Angelou and Jane Austen round out the top five.
While there are some depressing stats included in Armstrong’s totally bitchin’ infographics (how is Emily Brontë ahead of Charlotte, and who let Jack Kerouac crack the Top 20, you fools?), and while it’s a bit terrifying how much having a Google Doodle can spike interest in an otherwise low-interest author, it is pretty neat to see literature survive, and perhaps thrive, in a new way. Now give me a Shakespeare filter, showing me how I’d appear as someone confused by my sexuality and suffering the existential dread of having my authorship questioned for centuries to come. Also with cat ears?
Susan Rella is the Director of Production at Melville House, and a former bookseller.