Opinion

Hashtags reign

It’s a worldwide trend transcending most every form of social media. A word or phrase prefixed by the number symbol (#) is now an everyday shorthand form of metadata tagging. This “hashtag” phenomenon has acquired a humorous reputation of sorts known most commonly within the realms of Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.

The trend of hashtagging is, ironically, in and of itself a trend. On Twitter (home of the original hashtag) as tags gain popularity or become “re-tweeted,” they appear within the “Trending Topics” area of a user’s homepage, a quick way of compiling and categorizing.

According to CNN, the word “selfie” (a self-portrait posted to social media) has recently been named Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year for 2013. Made popular via social media outlets, the “selfie” phenomenon is characterized by its hashtag (#SELFIE) which today on Instagram has grossed over 59,384,383 posts specified by the tag. Ironically trending itself, even the hashtag #HASHTAG has accumulated over 5,431,647 posts.

I tend to be skeptical of up-and-coming trends, not easily swayed by something deemed “popular” (you may refrain from hipster references).

Hashtags at first impression seemed dumb, redundant and pointless. But as I soon realized, hashtags were undeniably becoming an actual thing. I decided to tastefully embrace them for all they were worth.

Yes, I’m one of those. I’ve tried to establish an Instagram hashtagging style of simplistic and intentional wit whenever possible. I find or create hashtags that pertain uniquely to my pictures and spend thought compiling my captions. It’s one of my creative outlets.

Being proud of my roots in the Pacific Northwest, #northwestisbest is my frequent favorite which I enjoy contrasting with my #Arkansassy adventures around the Natural State, because: #midwestiscooltoo.

There are established hashtags for just about any and every theme and descriptive adjectives to accompany any amount of photos deemed worthy of posting to social media. And let’s not forget those who participate in the beloved weekly Instagram tags such as #throwbackThursday, #womancrushWednesday and #selfieSunday… all which appear to be unendingly trending.

Excessive hashtagging, however, is first of all unnecessary, redundant and often annoying. Thank you, #typicalwhitegirl for your descriptive update on the details we have already gathered from a glance at your picture (example: #makeup #hair #scarves #boots #leaves #ilovefall #fashion #polkadots #happygirl #love #ootd). It’s those who take hashtags to the extreme, excessive and inappropriate lengths that tend to spoil its general reputation.

What first premiered on Twitter in 2007 as a method of tagging topics of interest through the microblogging network has now transcended into much more. Hashtags have since spread to Instagram, where they have become most excessively popularized, and linked to Facebook in June 2013. Because of their loose and interpretive nature, hashtags are able to attract and connect an unlimited range of users to particular associations or realms of discussion.

It’s not just a fun phenomenon. Legitimate websites such as hashtags.org (“Organizing the World’s Hashtags”) and hashtagify.me/#hashtags (“Advanced Hashtag Search”) enable others to track and trend hashtags for more significant purposes like advertising. Blogging, event promotion, mass broadcast media and news casters have used its popularity to target their more technologically-relevant audiences. “Like us on Facebook! #CNN” they remind us.

Hashtagging has become recognized within all contexts of communication. It’s now pervading all forms of media and even made its way into our everyday conversations with each other and contributes to what seems a social reconstruction of the English language through the influence of modern slang.

Are “selfie” and “hashtags” actually real words? Well, they are now. Known once as the humble keyboard pound symbol, popularity has transformed the symbol into the hyperlinked verb we use today.

It’s a trend, it’s a game, it’s happening… it’s your turn: #hashtag #you’reit.