Silly, Stupid #Hashtags

Why are we humans so intent on controlling every little aspect of the world around us? So intent on imposing rules that we make up terms like “netiquette” (as if Emily Post weren’t, already, the first and last word on the subject of good manners). So intent on sucking the silliness out of everything…

Blame it on a lack of breakfast, this morning, but when I saw my friend Todd’s rant on #hashtags, it sparked a little of that rebellious spirit that’s been lurking within, biding its time, waiting to pounce.

My rebellious spirit is more playful than revolutionary, most days. I wonder, though, if a lot of us don’t have an inner social reformer seething below the surface, longing to either free the spirited masses and ride the wave of their energy to the moon and beyond, or to quell their rowdy, bad behavior so that civilized beings can enjoy a small concert, quietly, in the drawing room. I don’t know about you, but I have both, and they are constantly snarking at each other.

This, I think, explains why we are so prone to getting our knickers in a snit over little things – things that either do not matter much, in a cosmological sense, or things which we believe (rightly or wrongly) that we can control. Speaking from the deep end of the well of parental experience, I can only feel empathy for anyone who gets his knickers in a snit while waiting for a child to finish writing something they demanded he proofread immediately upon their finishing. The irritated-but-idle mind seeks diversions.

So what’s the deal with hashtags, anyway? I’m guessing that more pixels have been consumed in bemoaning their abuse than have been used up by the 5 millionth posting of a giraffe climbing another giraffe’s neck, or some obnoxiously looping animated gif of a kitten that was cute the first five times but now threatens to induce a seizure. Dear Lord, but the Internet is fertile ground for pointless ranting about nothing of import, isn’t it?

Ahh, but is it really pointless if it gives us joy and fodder for our blogs, in equal measure?

Of course not! This is one of the time-honored #traditions of the Internet, one which scientists have now traced back farther than the backyard fence of the 1950s, the gentlemen’s clubs of the late 1800s, the harems of Constantinople, and even farther (though their grant proposals have not proven much beyond a few contentious scribbles on a wall in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings).

History of the Hashtag

One pseudo-scientific chap who goes by the name of Biff claims he’s found a hieroglyphic representation of a hashtag in Tut’s tomb that reads, in part, #suckitintheunderworldimnotgoingtobewalledinhereforeternity. It was inscribed on a small obelisk and stuffed, forcibly, into the mouth of #Bastet.

500px-Bastet.svg

Obviously quite pointless, given the likely fate of its author.

Modern Hashtaggery

In modern times, the #hashtag was intended to democratize the indexing of the Web. To the purists and idealists, it was a beacon in the darkness of search engines strung up in the night by crawlerbots that people imagined, over time, to resemble #spidersoncrack. These webs were often skewed towards the highest bidders, and so came to resemble twisted representations of international currency symbols. The hashtags, once so incisive and scientifically precise as #anatomy or #sqlserver or #billgates now took on a life of their own, occasionally appearing to prefer battle with the crawlerbots of Google and Bing than to provide anything useful to the Internet community at large. Their weaponry at turns ironic and pointless, hashtags – like art – evolved over time and splintered into different styles and periods. And, like art, this left viewers bemused, baffled, belligerent, and sometimes downright bellicose.

Will hashtag #Facebook on a #WordPress blog create a black hole in #Twitter?

Click To Tweet

But seldom is anyone ever shot over the perceived misuse of a hashtag. And so, as in the art world, it is mostly safe to let our inner #reformists and #revolutionaries have at it over hashtags, as symbols of and metaphors for all our woes in life –  even, one might believe, the very downfall of civilization.

 

 

 

 

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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16 thoughts on “Silly, Stupid #Hashtags”

  1. Here’s my theory on why FB users are so antagonistic about hashtag use: Many people just don’t get Twitter. Trying to explain all the different hashtag types and usages to someone who doesn’t tweet is like reading the tax code at open mic night.

    There are occasional outbreaks of hashtag on my Facebook statuses, because my FB posts automatically tweet. Sometimes, expedience wins the day. However, it appears that automatically posting to FB from Twitter or Instagram is a rant-worthy offense.

    See? Just look at all the time and thought it took to read and comment on this very important topic! I really should be doing something else. But I like to get in on a silly rant when I can 🙂
    Cairn Rodrigues recently posted…Slippery SlopeMy Profile

    1. Didn’t you learn anything from Ghostbusters, @Cairn? Don’t cross the streams! Never, ever cross the streams. (It’s actually Googlebusters that’ll get you – for duplicate content and spammy links – but we don’t worry about such things, surely?)

      It probably only really annoys the people who follow you regularly – because they see all your sh** ALL the time. 😉 You don’t have to employ mass marketing techniques with those folks. Maybe they’ll tolerate them, though, if they get that you’re trying to become a household name in literature. Or maybe (one can pray) they’ll buy your books to shut you up and make you write more so you can do it again!

      Silly rants are the BEST, aren’t they? You can sharpen your teeth and claws on them without getting all EMOTIONALLY VESTED in them. Truly the best.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Comment FAQMy Profile

      1. I think, when compared to the sheer volume of my tweets in general, my followers don’t notice too much spillover from FB. Often, a FB post spawns it’s own discussion on Twitter. Seeing as how 90% of my tweets are purely social, I’ve found that crossing those two streams works out fine.
        Cairn Rodrigues recently posted…Slippery SlopeMy Profile

    2. Well, that’s a really good point, too. If your tweets are fun and social AND make some sense (even out of context), then I don’t think people mind (at least not as much).

      A lot of folks just love to hate one social media site or another. Twitter gets a lot of hate. Facebook vs. Google+ is about as silly as the decades’ old PC vs. Mac, Windows vs. Linux, butter vs. margarine garbage. I want it all. Why spend all that time b**ching about it when you can have it ALL?
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Plug-Ins Your Blog NeedsMy Profile

  2. Cairn says posting automatically from Twitter to Facebook is a rant-worthy offence. Uh-oh! Guilty there, but only on the Facebook Fan Page. Should I stop doing that? LOL To be honest, I just don’t understand the finer points of hashtags, but still use them, nonetheless. The annoyance factor definitely kicks in when too many of them are used on one post.
    I like your “Click to tweet” app Holly and am going to try it out on my blog.
    Debbie recently posted…THE VISITATIONMy Profile

    1. I think what a lot of people don’t realize is that hashtags are NOT just “things to search for,” but are, ideally, little search links and aggregators of other content sharing the same hashtags. Click any of the ones in this post (well, except the really long one that was obviously pulled off a tomb wall – or straight out of my ear canal). Try #bastet. That’s the point.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Silly, Stupid #HashtagsMy Profile

    2. Debbie, I pestered her about that tweet plugin and installed it already 😀 Please rest assured that I do not rant about social media crossover, but my observations were based on the griping of others. Hashtags are a very flexible item, my pack of hedgehogs on Twitter use them in a variety of ways, generally for amusement. So #LittleHedehogOnThePrairie won’t ever trend, but it will make a bunch of people laugh.

      However, when I do trouble myself to stop retweeting pretty pictures and do some promo, more on-point hashtags are called for. Stuff about my dad will get #cancer or #Kindle for The Last Prospector.

      When all else fails, use #DoctorWho. He owns Twitter.
      Cairn Rodrigues recently posted…Slippery SlopeMy Profile

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  4. I don’t use hashtags often, and when I do it’s mainly on Twitter during Syracuse University sporting events. lol I use it to connect with other people watching the game at the same time. I know that G+ has now said they use hashtags, but I think I’ve only used it twice ever, although I don’t know if it tries to figure out what I’m doing and possibly adds one since I see it often on other people’s posts there who I know have no idea what it is.

    But on FB? Please, no! And on Instagram… well, they accept it also, but some folks go nuts & put more than 10 in there; sheesh!
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…Driving More Visitors To Your Blog; Are You Ready For The Work?My Profile

      1. Because they’re irritating! lol I go to look at an image on Instagram and there’s all this garbage; ugh. I read a quick Twitter post and there’s lots of hashtags. The one place you hope to escape from them is Facebook, but some folks have them all over there as well. I take in lots of content daily, so all that extraneous stuff is irksome; at least to me it is.
        Mitch Mitchell recently posted…CNET: The Site That Was Cool Isn’t Anymore For Downloads…My Profile

      2. Oh – we’re supposed to READ stuff on Instagram? I thought it was ALL about the pictures and silly filters people apply to them. I didn’t know we were supposed to READ. (My brain filters out the garbage hashtags there, seriously, along with most of the rest of the words, unless I’m super curious to know WHERE the picture was taken, who’s in it, or what the heck it IS.)

        Google+ has smarter hashtags than the others – it adds them when it sees useful (and already used) keywords in your post. I can’t remember, now, if it’s optional or not – I think it suggests and asks if it’s okay to add them, on a per post basis, right?

        Hashtags could be VERY useful; think of Twitter’s “trending topics” or imagine you want to have a regular series of conversations (e.g., the #amwriting hashtag, or #blogcrawl) and you want people to be able to follow along or find all relevant messages later. It’s not useful at all on something generic, like #great or #awful – and it’s of limited value if it’s long, snarky, ironic, obscure, etc. Though #irony might be a good one, come to think of it…

        Things like #LadyGaga; #KievBurning; #FavoriteThings; #100Books; #BucketList – those might be useful, don’t you think? if you could click on them and find others’ thoughts on those topics?
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…#BlogCrawl and BookishnessMy Profile

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