Friday, 13 March 2015

13/03/15 - #Hashtags

Hashtags. Are they really that tricky to use? The premise is pretty simple – add the # symbol to a keyword or phrase, don’t make it too long, don’t make it hard to spell (or easy to misspell), don’t include any punctuation in it, bosh. A clickable thingy so that other users of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or wherever can find your message in relation to other messages on the same theme. You know this. It’s 2015. Everyone knows how hashtags work, right?

Well, no, apparently not. The internet is littered with bemused listicles of ‘HASHTAGS GONE WRONG, YOU WON’T BELIEVE OMG WE CAN’T EVEN’ – the unfortunate (and clearly deliberate) hashtag for the 2012 launch party of Susan Boyle’s then-new album is a particular favourite. They went with #susanalbumparty. When BlackBerry parent company Research In Motion (RIM) wanted to react against news that they were making mass redundancies by shouting that they had jobs available, they went with #RIMjobs. Penguin Books’ decision this week to share heartwarming stories of people’s mothers with the hashtag #YourMum was impressively badly judged. And of course, there are plenty of misunderstood hashtags thanks to the necessary portmanteau nature of the format; when Margaret Thatcher died, people were using #nowthatchersdead – which can be, and was, misread as ‘now that Cher’s dead’, leading to all sorts of hilarious confusion.

But this isn’t specifically the behaviour that’s grinding my gears in a Peter Griffin style right now. No, what’s particularly stupid is people who hashtag pretty much every word in a post, as if it somehow makes what they’re saying more social. Fucking idiots. This is most prevalent on Instagram, where you’ll often see posts like ‘#Me and my #boyfriend at #the #beach getting #some #icecream #woo’. Honestly, dumbass, what do you think is going to happen there? Who’s going to click on ‘#the’ to see what other interesting cultural nuggets have been shared using the word ‘the’ recently? It’s too broad a theme, stupid.
And what’s equally stupid is corporate accounts appending hopelessly broad hashtags to their posts, so you see things like ‘#news’ or ‘#today’ or ‘#weather’. Pointless.

‘Who’s going to click that,’ I said? Me, that’s who. Look, I’ve clicked on some really rubbish hashtags for you to see what could be discovered within. Make sense of it, or don’t.

Unsurprisingly, this is quite a mixed bag. And, weirdly, the people who do this generally seem to tag the word ‘the’ and nothing else. Some examples from clicking ‘#the’ on Twitter:
- ‘What would happen if your home is overrun by rodents? Who will you call? #The Green Party.’ That one’s from a UKIP MEP.
- ‘#The law of the Lord is perfect.’ Some mad Christian chap there.
- ‘Just met the lovely Susan Boyle at #the Bodyguard premiere. Lovely lady!’ Someone keen to point out that Susan Boyle is lovely.
- ‘I love my new beach house #the OC is the place too be’ – some illiterate rich tart sharing a picture of herself by a massive swimming pool.

Connecting themes for ‘#the’: er… none.

Once again, all sorts of randomness. Let’s have a go on Facebook this time:
- ‘Lance #battles alongside player #against Ariana #and a Team Rocket Grunt in the Team Rocket HQ.’ Something utterly incomprehensible from the official Pokemon Toys page.
- ‘WE WILL F*** UP ANYONE OLD YOUNG BLACK BROWN POLICE FORCE IN FULL EFFECT #AND THE PEOPLE LOVE IT GANGSTA’ – slightly baffling caption from a chap named James sharing an article about an old lady who was assaulted by US cops.
- ‘Why Obama hates Netanyahu, and vice versa #Reason #Obama #and #Netanyahu #Hate #Each #Other’ – bit of thickness from the Jewish Media Agency page.
- ‘#like #and #share #page’ – a number of basic misunderstandings about how social media works from the “Awesome personality of mata gujri college” page, who’ve posted a link to YouTube. (And not any particular YouTube video – literally just a link to the YouTube homepage. Like, ‘OMG, did you know you can watch videos on the internet now?’)

Connecting themes for ‘#and’: er… none.

OK, over to Instagram to click the #today hashtag, which currently has 30,555,240 posts. The first ten results are photos of:
- a raspberry macaroon
- someone’s new hair extensions
- a selfie in front of a lake
- a can of Coke and a bunch of keys
- a duckface pout bedroom mirror selfie
- some torn jeans
- a dog
- a triple selfie
- ‘follow us to get free followers!’
- hot dog legs by swimming pool

Connecting themes for ‘#today’: er… none.

OK, back to Twitter to see what’s going on with the ‘#yes’ hashtag…
- ‘Just found a pack of gum on the ground unopened and everything #yes’ – sounds like a trap to me. Should you chew that? #no.
- ‘Have an awesome weekend everyone! #YES’ – boisterous corralling from an Australian mobile provider.
- ‘Never been good at collaging but I’m proud of this. #Yes.’ Karla has made a collage. Good for her.
- ‘not lucky I’m blessed #yes’ says Merk, sharing a picture of some unappetising food.

Connecting themes for ‘#yes’: er… none.

I was wrong, apparently this hashtag lark is quite tricky. What’s really entertaining, though, is when such dullards start to furrow their brows and consider the actual nature of the hashtag symbol, and reach some befuddling conclusions. The hash symbol, a.k.a. the number sign, has been around for as long as anyone can remember, and is commonly known in the US as the pound sign. Some can’t work out why it’s called a hashtag when it should really, they conclude after much headscratching, be called a poundtag. Right?
And then, years later, they’ll come across an old rotary phone in an antique shop and become convinced that someone’s playing a prank on them, or it belongs to a time-traveller. Because, like, they didn’t have Twitter in the olden days, did they? Why did they need hashtags…?
Well, the answer is obvious: #we #should #be #using #hashtags #all #the #time. Don’t give it any consideration, just sprinkle them liberally about the place. Fuck it.

Oh, and one last thought… what happens if we search Twitter for the hashtag ‘#hashtag’?
- ‘Grow you Twitter followers with my #hashtag growth tips in my free eBook’
- ‘Mass Rally NYC – guys, let’s really get this #hashtag trending’
- ‘The best month of the year is here! #springbreak #hashtag #marchmadness’
- ‘Today is #hashtag your verbs day!’


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