The #Hashtag

(written Sep 2013 for my interdisciplinary Intro to Social Media course, Fall 2013) 

Ah, yes. The infamous #hashtag. Once known as a number symbol or the “pound key” (because who actually uses that button anyway), the hashtag has paved the way for a new digital frontier. Supposedly used for grouping similar interests/ideas/topics and an attempt at “organizing” the Internet (psh, yeah right), the hashtag has been used endlessly for things like trending topics on Twitter, tagging on WordPress and Tumblr, and even as a way of searching photo captions on Instagram. The #hashtag has become a daily part of our “second life” via the Internet, a not-so-subtle way of expressing thoughts, side-comments, and #reallylongsentencesthatareextremelyunnecessaryanddifficulttoread. Ladies and gentlemen, your hashtag.

But how did this concept of the “hashtag” even start? 

According to Hashtags.org, a website that attempts to organize the world’s hashtags (key word: attempts), the very first idea for a hashtag group occurred on Twitter back in 2007. Chris Messina, an early Twitter user, asked his followers about using the pound key for messaging groups. Messina came up with the idea of a “whisper circle” (another word for Tweet, back in those days) to exchange select messages to a smaller audience with similar thoughts/ideas. His initial idea was called the channel tag.

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 4.58.05 PM

“I’m more interested in simply having a better eavesdropping experience on Twitter,” Messina wrote in one of his early weblogs from 2007. “Every time someone uses a channel tag to mark a status, not only do we know something specific about that status, but others can eavesdrop on the context of it and then join in the channel and contribute as well. Rather than trying to ping-pong discussion between one or more individuals with daisy-chained @replies, using a simple #reply means that people not in the @reply queue will be able to follow along, as people do with Flickr or Delicious tags. Furthermore, topics that enter into existing channels will become visible to those who have previously joined in the discussion.”

Messina, you nerdy genius.

Thus, the #hashtag was born. And it has exploded since. Fast forward 5 or so years and hashtags are being used EVERYWHERE; on mobile social apps such as Instagram and Vine, as a way of organizing tags on Facebook, as trending topics on Twitter and Pinterest. I wonder how Messina feels now that the Internet has turned his beloved #hashtag creation into a somewhat (barely) organized train-wreck. And social media is driving it straight down the barrel. Let’s face it; hashtags these days aren’t used for merely grouping Tweets, photo captions, statuses, etc. In fact, the world wide web has become so obnoxious with its hashtag use. Take a look at your basic timeline. You see things like:

  • Really blatant thoughts, such as the #getyourshittogether tag on Twitter, tracked by Hashtags.org. Not suprisingly, the tag is used most often between the hours of 8:00 am and 12:00 pm. Annoyed People peak hour. Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 5.18.39 PM
  • Hashtag “projects” people attempt to do together, such as #project365 on Instagram.
  • Wedding/event hashtags. Great idea, really: a most organized and efficient way to view different photo perspectives!
  • People actually saying the word “hashtag” out loud in an obnoxious and slightly-annoying way; such as “Oh my god stop it HASHTAG sooo lame HASHTAG gtfo.”
  • Even baby names… Seriously?!
  • Again, the #reallylongsentencesthatareextremelyunnecessaryanddifficulttoread hashtag. You know ‘em. You love ‘em.

Not to say my own Internet etiquette any better than any of ya’ll. I’m including myself in these facts, of course. For example, here’s one of my personal tweets from earlier today:

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 5.13.23 PM

Subtle, yet slightly obnoxious. Just the way I like my Tweets. (Heh.)

Anyway, comment below if you like/agree with this post, or if you want to see other related posts or topics you want me to talk about on Fadology! Thanks for stopping by! #fadology #grateful #isanyoneevenreadingthis #ofcourseyouare

– AE

(Sources: Hashtags.org; FactoryJoe.com. Images: Google Images)

 

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