Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Misusing Hashtags

Over the past five years, hashtags have taken the world of social media by storm and can be found on popular websites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest... and probably others.

I am not a fan of hashtags.  At least, I am not a fan of misused hashtags.  How are they misused?  I am more than willing to vent.

The purpose of the hashtag is to help categorize things by theme.  By adding the # symbol before a word, it becomes "clickable" and serves as a way to find other posts that contain like content.  If you are on any social media, this shouldn't be new for you, but if it is, here is an example.  By incorporating #OntarioElection into a post (our election is tomorrow after all), people reading would be able to click on the tag and find other posts that also talk about the election.  In this way, the hashtag serves a useful function by helping people find certain information.

However, culture has taken the hashtag and have distorted it.  Urban dictionary has a couple of amusing definitions:
A hashtag is a stupid thing people put in front of random words for no reason. It is just the pound sign you can find it on social networks like Facebook or Twitter. It is just another 21st century made up thing.
[A hashtag is] The battlecry to hipsters.
People have started to add a number of tags that either make no sense.  A status/statement doesn't need a paragraph of tags:  Went for a walk today! #sky #birds #trees #park #kidsplaying #soccer #air #walking #walk #nature #beautiful.  This is just excessive. To be a good, a tag should stand out and should not be lost among a sea of others.  It's purpose is to highlight the nugget of gold--the key point.

My other peeve is when people use hashtags it in contexts that don't make sense.  In other words in a text (you can't click on it to find like messages in a text.  That's ridiculous.  If you are using hashtags in a text you are just being foolish), or in real live conversations.  Maybe you know people who do this:

Person A: What did you do this weekend?
Person B: Went up to visit my grandparents and cousins.  Hashtag family reunion!  There was so much food and it was delicious. Hashtag yum!

I look at that an cringe.  I don't understand the purpose of using a hashtag in conversation.  It just doesn't make sense and like in a text, it just seems foolish.

Maybe this is a bit excessive and maybe you find my opinion extreme (you probably do if you're one of these hashtag misusers), but what's the point of creating things with specific functions if we ignore these functions?

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