Journalism

The Rise of #Hashtags (No Longer the Pound Button Online)

The # is the most abused symbol used on the internet. Users either don’t know what that symbol is (it’s pound, right? Like on the phone?) OR users use it constantly, driving their followers and friends absolutely mad!

Recently, some girlfriends and I were laughing about how people on Facebook have been using hashtags despite it being a concept made specifically for Twitter. Not even 24 hours later, what we had been making fun of had now become reality — Facebook uses hashtags.

Now, I have nothing against the correct usage of hashtags. I use them on Twitter, selectively of course, when I’m talking a specific subject that others who have interest in that subject might find interesting. I also use them on Instagram because that’s a great way to find other photos of that similar nature. Well, that is, if people use them correctly.

Despite the Internet being around for the majority of my generation’s life, we still are abusing the knowledge that we grew up with about using the Internet and computers when new apps, websites, or social media communities are formed.

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It makes me wonder. Are these bad behaviors becoming worse because the technology is growing faster than our parents and mentor’s knowledge? And since “people learn from their mistakes” Generation X has to make sometimes career costing mistakes to learn how to #masterthehashtag.

So as a fellow, Generation X member, listen up other 20-somethings and under! If you chose to have a Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram account and use hashtags…

  • DON’T write an entire sentence #rainraingoawaycomeagainanotherday … seriously? If I have to take the time to draw lines between the words to read the hashtag, it’s useless.
  • DO use key words that identify with a common event, person, news item, group, or place. For example, the recent news of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s baby has thrown the web into a tizzy. A common hashtag being used to talk about them and the birth is #Kimye
  • DON’T use hashtags unless you feel it will connect other users to your profile in a positive way. It’s tasteless, classy, and immature to tweet while angry, unless it is constructive criticism or is bringing forth an issue that the public should know about. So, if you hate your econ professor at your university, don’t tweet about it and then #nameofcollege – that’ll just cause you more trouble.
  • DO use hashtags to become part of the conversation. Especially when breaking news is happening or your following a live event, hashtags help attendees of events create an even larger conversation that perhaps can’t be had during the event.
  • DON’T use a ton of hashtags. Twitter already limits your number of characters so don’t waste them on hashtags. Facebook has a text limit too, but not as short as Twitter. Using a ton of hashtags overwhelms your followers and friends and takes away from your original message and purpose of writing the message.

The Internet is an ever-changing place and we’re all learning what the best usage practices are and what’s most effective for us personally. So, take the time to study what you’re friends and colleagues are doing. Keep up with the news. Stay informed of etiquette. Just because the Internet has endless possibilities to do so many things, doesn’t mean you should OVER do it.

So #hashtag with caution. Not just for your sake, but everyone’s, too.

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