Recently I was hacking away at the thickets of social media and found I was named a Top Poet. This is great because now I have something I can add to my “poet bio” besides being ‘the holder of a thousand rejection slips.’ You don’t have to worry about me getting a big head or lonely at the top. The list names 5,000 other Top Poets.
The list was created by Bryant McGill, a self-described motivational speaker, human rights activist, and author of the bestselling book, Voice of Reason. McGill has 30,000 followers and more than 13,000 tweets. I have yet to reach above 300 followers, so I feel a bit like a guppy in an enormous pond.
I was surprised when the message came that I was added to his list. I suspect that one of more words of my tweeted words were absorbed by some algorithm McGill subscribes to. McGill is a one man industry. He is a compulsive Twitterlister. His lists include: Top Analysts, Top Divas, Top Reporters, Top Environmentalists, Top Lawyers, and Top Innovators. McGill tweets like a madman, up to twenty a day, with positive proclamations that identify Western culture’s dark holes. “We have been trained by a culture of violence and we are all agents of passive violence.” He advocates changing our thinking habits and negative life patterns so one can work toward a new life. McGill is like Benjamin Franklin on digital steroids.
Yet McGill’s mega listing and tweeting raises the question of language. Does Top Poet mean anything at all, even in the rarefied of air of the Twitterverse. If there are 5,000 Top Poets in his world then nearly every poet is a Top Poet.
For me a Top Poet would be anyone who points out the industrialization of language and the subjugation of words in the service of selling, especially in social media. I think this use of language (like Top Poet) caters to flattery and falls under the sin of vanity. It is also subversive to flatten the meaning of a word like “top” to mean any and all things. This kind of talk renders words meaningless. It is also self-serving.
So the question is what would be a better name for a list like this. Here’s my suggestions: instead of Top Poet how about simply Poets or Poets I Follow. Or maybe Poets Who Should Buy My Products.