Hashtags: The single most important change in the way we use the internet that has taken place within our lifetime.

140 characters or less. Everyone knows what is being talked about when they hear those words. Trying to fit something clever and appealing to all users in 140 characters or less is a definite challenge. That challenge was proposed by Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and creator of Twitter. With the witty twitty invention of Twitter, came the all knowing and almighty #Hashtag. The Hashtag has changed the way the Internet works today and changed the way that us as humans interact. Some might say it is the single most important change in the way we use the internet that has taken place within our lifetime.

The hashtag makes sense online, where certain sites like Instagram and Twitter and now Facebook use it for its original purpose. But recently, the tagging of our thoughts onto the end of our sentences, including places that don’t support tagging like text messaging, and even casual speech, sometimes to the chagrin of others (I mean how many times have we heard someone say Hashtag: Blessed at the end of their sentence.) Nathaniel Hawthorne may not have been talking about the invention of the Hashtag specifically when he said: “It is my belief, that social intercourse cannot long continue what it has been, now that we have subtracted from it so important and vivifying an element as fire-light. The effects will be more perceptible on our children, and the generations that shall succeed them, than on ourselves, the mechanism of whose life may remain unchanged, though its spirit be far other than it was.” But if you read the “social interourse cannot long continue what it has been” part again, you can see that he is right. Social intercourse has not continued as it was before. I can guarantee you that people didnt end their sentences with #Blessed back in 1846 when Hawthorne first published “Fire Worship”.

Tagging our thoughts — usually bits of brainpower already whittled down to a few sentences on Twitter — allows us to organize them, both online and in real life, in a new way. The hashtag facilitates categorization of thoughts by nature and also by related content.

For example, the tweet below isn’t about what it means to be blessed, but “#blessed” cues the reader in on the idea that Smiley Whale thinks he is blessed because of the fact that he just got the new iPhone 7.

Scott Timberg (a staff writer for Salon) wrote about Monoculture: “Looking at the summer of 2016, it’s still hard to determine whether a monoculture is something we want or we don’t. (In agriculture, the issue is similarly vexing.) But one thing that’s becoming clear: While there is plenty of diversity — of opinion, of musical style, of offerings in television and movies — the monoculture is as strong as ever. Whether it’s better or worse is a whole other question, but the mainstream, rather than fragmenting, has reinforced itself in a big way.” Hashtags are the epitome of monoculture. Scott Timberg writes about how Monoculture has died, however things such as Hashtags show that the Monoculture is still alive.

It seems to me that the original purpose of the hashtag has evolved, and we don’t only use it for Internet categorization anymore. It doesn’t matter to us that our text messaging doesn’t support tagging, and it matters even less that face-to-face speech doesn’t support it, either. What we’re gaining from hashtagging is a new way to communicate ideas, more concise than ever. We can share, with one funny little symbol, a host of ideas that are merely tangential to our original thought, but that somehow manage to clarify or add to it. That is why, in my opinion, Hashtags are the single most important change in the way we use the internet that has taken place within our lifetime.

Sources:

Uloop. “How Hashtags Evolved And Changed The Way We Communicate.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

“Hashtag.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

Whale, S. “Smiley Whale Profile.” Twitter.com. Twitter Inc., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

Nathaniel Hawthorne. “Fire-Worship.” , from Mosses from an Old Manse, 1854. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.

Timbers, S. “The Revenge of Monoculture: The Internet Gave Us More Choices, but the Mainstream Won Anyway.” Saloncom RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.