Nov 24, 2013

I found it extremely amusing when I was discussing this article, and my mother asked, “ What is a hashtag?” So let’s begin there – this ‘#’ symbol is called a hash. It goes by many names – the number sign, the pound sign, the hash – but it is basically the #. Originally used, infrequently and unnecessarily to mean “number” and put before any number (#1, #321), the hash sign was a relatively unimportant phenomenon – until Twitter.

The social networking site Twitter, shortly after it’s launch, introduced a new and innovative way to use the hash symbol – inventing the hashtag. It was actually one of the users Chris Messina who suggested the use of this little used symbol as a way to collate data and bring together posts on a certain subject. For example, Chris wanted to collate conversations about the tech conference BarCamp – he created #barcamp – which would be used in all posts pertaining to the conference. Twitter saw the potential of this, and adopted the hashtag – which became a way to connect the strings of posts, events, user interests, news; were looking for.

They were topic/subject headers – but they were cool and trendy while also being functional. Twitter did something really important next – they added a link function to the hashtag – and that just made indispensable. By clicking on a hashtag, you were sent a page full of all posts, news, events containing that hashtag, i.e., on that topic/subject. It evolved beyond broad subjects or topics, or even events – the # now meant ‘pertaining to’ – #chocolates, #loveadvice, #INFORMissionWeekly, #BreakdownOfParticlePhysicsToday – it wasn’t just topics – it was anything.

Hashtags brought together all content pertaining to any subject – it just made finding information, people, events, etc. so easy. Twitter made the hashtag it’s USP –it became part of their site design, lingo and sales pitch. And then, it went beyond Twitter. All social networking sites began adopting this new, popular phenomenon – Instagram, Google+, Vine, and then this year Flickr, and very, very significantly, Facebook. The embracing of the hashtag by Twitter’s main *coughs* competitor Facebook just shows the rise the hashtag has seen. It’s uses have kept expanding – on Twitter itself, it has become a pithy phrase, used to label or comment on the preceeding tweet. “Comment” is the word that matters here – in recent times, especially this year, it has gone beyond a topic or link or collation device – it’s become a language, full of humour, darkness, wordplay, and poetry. One saw it this year – a Facebook photo is commented and described using just hashtags, messages on Whatsapp & BBM (no hashtag support) include #whatchadoin, when someone wants say something short – they write #fail or #burn on any social media – it has become a part of written language. #theworldisending #grammarisdead #Newspeak #GeorgeOrwell1984 #anewlanguage #iwloveshashtags #letathousandhashtagsbloom #RiseOfTheHashtag2013 #SigningOff.

Photo Credits: Source: djAvrilPerry90

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