The history of the #hashtag

By Devon Delfino, Staff Writer
@devondelfino

Apparently, even the "big man upstairs" is bragging about the extended use of the hashtag. PHOTO VIA Twitter user TheTweetOfGod

Apparently, even the “big man upstairs” is bragging about the extended use of the hashtag. PHOTO VIA Twitter user TheTweetOfGod

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Facebook plans on adding hashtags, the use of the pound symbol followed by a word or words, to its site.

It’s hard to believe that the hashtag, in its Twitter use, is less than six years old. It was originally introduced to organize tweets and track trending topics, when Chris Messina tweeted, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

But hashtag usage has been mangled into something much more annoying. Within the past five and a half years or so, the evolution in use has gone from functional to bordering on the absurd.

The hashtag’s overexposure has even led to a namesake baby, little Hashtag Jameson, born in November of last year, a controversy which sparked debate about the level of integration that the internet and social media have on our lives.

I’ve often seen tweets composed solely of hashtags, (a.k.a ‘hashrash’), or the use of #hashtag, or the use of hashtags on Facebook (in case you didn’t notice, it doesn’t work; in fact, the hashtag becomes as useful as any other symbol on your keyboard outside of Twitter or Instagram).

This last misuse prompted the founding of the Facebook page, “This is not Twitter. Hashtags don’t work here,” as well as multiple Youtube video rants about improper hashtag usage. There is even a Twitter etiquette page on hashtags.org that reminds Twitter users that “Peppering your tweets with too many hashtags is not only defeating the purpose of a hashtag but also very annoying to see. Expect to get unfollowed when you do this.” But some of use still don’t seem to grasp this concept.

I hope I’m not the only one who grimaces a bit with the news of the addition of hashtags to Facebook. Twitter has always been a public broadcast network, and hashtags have only helped the site increase functionality; Facebook, however, has always been a more private and intimate means of social interaction. Hashtags make sense in a news-based context, but putting them on a social networking site can only further commercialize it.

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