Let me just explain my understanding of the whole hashtag phenomenon. One day, I began to notice that people on twitter were using the pound symbol to precede a subject, or tag, and that twitter had set it up so that all the tags would compile on a separate page. It was great for things like #funnyquotes or #momproblems, where you might be interested in looking at other people’s additions to that subject. And when a topic was “trending” or popular among twitter users, it would add some value to the participants. I mean, it’s great if you and a bunch of fellow fans can get your little known favorite band to be a trending topic!
But, hashtags have seriously devolved since their inception.
Not only do people completely misunderstand their meaning, but they also overuse them to a rather massive degree. What began as a way to tag related posts has now become a culturally acceptable way to express every thought in your head about whatever it is you’re doing at a given moment. Not to mention that the level of creativity with their use is both incredibly dull and painfully forced. To be honest, I am guilty of abusing hashtags in an attempt to be clever. I could have just added “just sayin'” to the end of my post instead of sticking a #justsayin on the end of it, and I probably would have gotten the same reaction, except for by those people who are strongly against hashtags. Point is, there are very few reasons to use a hashtag.
But, believe it or not, they do have a purpose. Their original purpose, in fact. For example, I took a beautiful picture of the Angel Oak Tree and put it on Instagram, which is famous for the photo filters. Well, this particular picture was beautiful without a filter, so I used the hashtag #nofilter. Then, I was curious to see what other people had put in that category. That was a mistake. Pretty much, if a person didn’t use a filter, they used that hashtag. What I thought would be “interesting pictures that were hard to believe were unedited” was instead a compilation of “anything goes, just not a filter.” And newsflash: unless you’re a celebrity, people don’t care if you have on #nomakeup.
But how do we stop this bottomless pit of poor judgement? Well, folks I’ve taken the liberty to compile a list of rules to consider before you type out one more hashtag:
1. Think before you shift+3. Does this particular post require a hashtag? Will it benefit anyone besides yourself?
2. Don’t make it up. If you do, chances are you’re breaking rule #1. Plus, misspelled hashtags are completely useless, not to mention embarrassing.
3. Don’t hashtag a phrase. It’s not necessary. It’s not clever or funny anymore and it will only clutter your post.
4. Make it relevant. You shouldn’t put your car in #babyanimals, nor should you abuse hashtags for your inside jokes.
5. Consider your audience. What do you want people who click the hashtag to think about your post?
6. 1-2 per post is acceptable. But if you’re feeling hashtag-y, stop with 3.
For those of you who will have trouble following these rules, let me give you some examples.
Rule #1 Think before you shift+3
Acceptable: “Wow, I have never worked out so hard in my life. But it’ll be worth it! #crossfit”
Not Acceptable: “Soooo tired from my Crossfit class today. #crossfit #damnyoucrossfit #owowowow”
Reason: The first one uses the hashtag to reference the post. Other people looking at this might be interested in this post. The second is obviously about Crossfit and probably doesn’t benefit anyone but the person updating.
Rule #2 Don’t make it up
Acceptable: “Totally cut my finger today. #chefproblems”
Not Acceptable: “Dang this cut hurts so bad! #immachef #culnaryprobs”
Reason: The first one is most likely not made up by the person posting. The second is obviously misspelled and likely doesn’t link to any other relevant posts.
Rule #3 Don’t hashtag a phrase
Acceptable: “I didn’t know all polar bears are left-handed! #TIL #todayilearned”
Not Acceptable: “Just saw the cutest guy today! #itwasloveatfirstsight”
Reason: The first one is a phrase people want to tag and search. The second is probably not interesting to most people, and the phrase can be used without a hashtag and make the same point.
Rule #4 Make it relevant
Acceptable: [Picture of girl with her car] “Love my ride! #girlswithcars”
Not Acceptable: [Picture of girl with her car] “Love my ride! #awesomeness #superexcited #yourejealous”
Reason: When you look at pictures with the hashtag #girlswithcars you will probably find pictures and posts of girls with cars. When you look at the hashtag #awesomeness, you will probably find a myriad of subjects, most of them probably not meeting your definition of awesome.
Rule #5 Consider your audience
Acceptable: “Such a great concert! She is so amazing live! #ReginaSpektor #AladdinTheater”
Also Acceptable: “Super fun time with my family! #HarrisonFamilyReunion”
Not Acceptable: “Ugh, wish I could be at the #ReginaSpektor concert, but instead I’m sick with the flu. Anyone know what meds I can take?”
Reason: To people looking at #ReginaSpektor, the first post is interesting and relevant. The second one is relevant to the Harrison family, and can help the whole family have access to pictures and posts. The third might be a little relevant, but is useless to the audience.
Rule #6 1-2 per post is acceptable
Acceptable: [Picture of kittens cuddling] “Awww! #kittens #cuddles”
Not Acceptable: [Picture of kittens cuddling] “Awww! #socute #kittens #cuddles #kittencuddles #awwww #babyanimals #cantbelievethis #imgonnadie #cutenessoverload #havingfun #littleballoffur”
Reason: Though all the hashtags in the second one are relevant, the post is so overshadowed by the enthusiasm of hashtags that the post itself almost becomes irrelevant. Not to mention that onlookers are probably wincing.
Hashtags are not useless, unless you make them that way. There are some simple rules you can follow to make the use of hashtags enjoyable for everyone, but right now, people seem to be abusing them for their own amusement. It was fun at first, but now it’s just annoying. And it’s ruining the younger generation’s understanding of how to use the skills they learned in English 101. Let’s all step up, and #usehashtagsforgood! (You don’t have to repeat that. I don’t think it’ll go anywhere.)