Dear beloved social media friends,
Can I call you my friends? I’ve never met some of you, but I feel like I know you intimately. You show me photos of your sushi and take me with you on your family’s travels. I know where you work and what cocktail you’re sipping after hours. You even confide in me when you’re mad at someone (although sometimes you’re quite cryptic about who that someone might be).
Source: Oxford Dictionaries (www.oxforddictionaries.com/us definition/american_english/hashtag)
Because I’ve come to care about you through our frequent exchanges of miscellany and minutia, I’m writing to inform you of a worrisome trend I’ve become aware of lately: the overuse, misuse, and obscenely liberal application of hashtags in any and all social media communiqués.
Let me explain what hashtags are supposed to be for. They are to connect similar threads so that we can follow a specific topic. For example, I might post something about ObamaCare and include the hashtags #ObamaCare #HealthCare #HeathInsurance. But wait, I wouldn’t do that. That’s too political. More realistically, I might post something about kittens. In my post, I might include the hashtag #Kittens, so that other kitten aficionados can find my post.
This is how hashtags were intended to be used, but they’ve morphed into something else entirely. Now, they seem to have become an excuse to shout out random proclamations, like some kind of social media Tourette’s. Example: I just made a batch of chocolate chip cookies! Woot! Woot! They are delicious! #Yummy!! #JustLikeMomsCookies!! #ChocolateAfterMidnight!! Or, another example: I spent my entire morning waiting for the cable guy. #FourHourWindowMyAss #AwfulService #Frustrated!!!!! (Quite often, the perpetrators guilty of peppering their posts with useless hashtags are the same people who abuse the exclamation point. In fact, that would make for an interesting study: hashtag overuse correlated with the frequency of exclamation points.)
It’s an alarming trend. People are even using hashtags in places where they aren’t functional (i.e., not clickable), like in blog articles and text messages. What do they mean? #NotSureWhatThatsSupposedToDo
I fear that if this continues, we’ll lose sight of what hashtags were actually intended for. We won’t be employing them to connect related threads; rather, we’ll forget how to construct a coherent sentence altogether and be reduced to disjointed shout-outs of single words and short phrases. #StopTheMadness!!!!
Friends, I implore you, please utilize discretion with your hashtags. While they are useful, and admittedly they’re trendy and cute (and everyone agrees you look super-cool when you use them), they are in danger of becoming degraded into nonsense. Here’s a helpful pointer: if you can’t click on your hashtag and find any posts other than your own (or, furthermore, if your hashtag isn’t clickable at all), it’s probably not relevant. To anything.
With warmest wishes for healthy hashtag use,