Hashtags took me a while to figure out. Probably because it took me so long to embrace Twitter. As with most pop culture phenomenon, I had to do some research. In 2007, former Google developer, Chris Messina, suggested that we used the symbol # in front of a shared phrase to link common topics when using a social media platform. This would allow the topics to be searchable so that all related posts would be easy to find. His suggestion was not received with open arms. In fact, he was ridiculed for it. This began to change later that same year, during the San Diego fire. People begin using the hashtag as a way to keep others updated. It worked as a method of tracking and early warning system. In 2008, political groups began to take advantage of the hashtag to promote bills to congress. Finally in 2009, Twitter officially adopted the hashtag and hyperlinked it.
I understood the concept once I learned this. I was even pretty impressed. What an awesome way to allow people to share events with each other! Imagine being at the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Awareness Walk with MILLONS of other women and being able to look at things through their eyes?! Or music festivals, sporting events, national tragedies, etc. It is crazy, awesome that using hashtag can unite so many people over one topic or event.
However, my first hashtag experiences were not positive. I first began to see hashtags in action on Facebook since I was late to Twitter. Even once I had learned their purpose, I still refused to use them for many years. Mostly because I despised the people who did not seem to grasp their purpose. It is not ok to post things like: #IAMSOTIRED #INEEDCOFFEE #ICANNOTDEALTODAY. Or how about the classic: #IAMSOBROKE #HOWMANYMOREDAYSUNTILPAYDAY? #CANSOMEONEBRINGMELUNCH? Seriously, people?! Do you need to use so many hashtags in the same post? Do you need to use full sentences? Do you even understand how hashtags work? You cannot just make up some random crap and call it a hashtag just because you added the number symbol to the front of your nonsense. Other people must also be using the exact same hashtags for it to be a searchable topic. I guarantee that I will never use #HOWMANYMOREDAYSUNTILPAYDAY? If you ever see it posted on my Facebook or Twitter, please assume that I have been taken against my will and it is secret message begging for help.
I have finally overcome my aversion to the hashtags. It’s not their fault that they are abused and misused. A few months ago, I posted my first hashtag when I bought a 10th Doctor Keychain. (For the record, David Tennant is my Doctor). I was so proud and a little excited to post the photo of the keychain with the caption #whovian. Simple, to the point, and a completely searchable topic. Since then, I have continued to use them sparingly and only when the situation deemed it necessary. In all honesty, they are very useful when used correctly. Turns out, I never really disliked hashtags at all. I just disliked the people who used them disrespectfully. There was not really a contest at all this time. You win by default this time, pop culture.