Why Hashtags Are the Worst
Nooneenjoysreadingsentenceswithoutspaces. I’d like to leave it at that, but there has been a massive devolution in communication — by this I mean one person expressing a thought to another — because of the hashtag.
Not to say they can’t be useful. Hashtags are great for grouping posts about similar topics. They are also (rarely) good for clever jokes and commentary. Rarely, because most of us aren’t funny.
More on that below. But first, misuse.
1. Hashtags decrease the utility of written communication because they’re fucking hard to read
Spaceshaveapurpose. Did you first read that as “space shave a purpose?” Did you then have to go back and read it again?
2. Hashtags are usually a way to avoid articulating your thoughts
This photo caption is 100% phrases with no spaces. Fortunately, the hashtags have little to do with one another, so we all finish our reading with a nice, coherent thought. Oh, and kudos to this person for #myveryfirstbasementbhangra. Great point. Also, #very.
To those of you who do this: your reader is sitting there in frustration, trying to unpack and connect all the non-sequitur hashtags you used because you couldn’t decide which of five — or in this case ten — ideas you wanted to express. Instead of honing in your thoughts and writing something concise or remotely comprehensible, you firehosed us with everything in your head.
AND THEN YOU DELETED THE SPACES.
3. STOP PHONING IN DESCRIPTIONS WITH BORING HASHTAGS
I’m going to break this one into parts, because: ugh. I guess I’ll begin with those double ponytail things that come out of the side of your head. What are those called, again?
If there is a photo of a baby with pigtails, most of us can recognize that we’re looking at a baby with pigtails. Give us some credit, for Christ’s sake. The hashtag #pigtails isn’t offering anything new.
If you really want to put into writing what we can already clearly see, type the description without a superfluous pound sign in front of it. If it’s a phrase — maybe #cutestpigtailsever — give us the luxury of spaces with “cutest pigtails ever.” Especially since one reading of that hashtag is “cutest pigtail sever.”
Better yet, think of something that adds value to our understanding of the photo, and write that.
The largest number of hashtags I see on Facebook are banal descriptions. But let’s give #onlyjune the benefit of the doubt for a second and assume its utility is grouping photos of June-related things.
Aside from the fact that this hashtag makes no sense (don’t people like June? Summertime and stuff? Maybe if this were #onlymonday I’d get it?), it’s so random and narrow that people are unlikely to search for it.
If your hashtag requires an explanation beyond reading the hashtag — or if it’s so strange and uncommon, it’s obsolete — don’t use it.
4. This is happening on Facebook, which doesn’t make any sense
When people use 50 hashtags, including redundant descriptions like #pigtails, they’re often trying to add followers. This shameless practice applies mostly to Instagram, and it works, because most people have public photos anyone can search.
Facebookers, on the other hand, have to share their photo with a public audience for anyone else to be able to see it in a search. The majority of hashtaggers (at least in my feed) don’t do this. And to reiterate, they’re using hashtags people wouldn’t search for in the first place. So … ?
5. It doesn’t work if we can’t come to a consensus on spelling
Like I said above, hashtags can be great for grouping things. But before I get to that side argument, I’m going to argue against myself.
Spelling isn’t consistent. This ruins the utility of the whole grouping thing.
We clearly haven’t had a meeting of the minds when it comes to #murica or #merica. During Pride weekend, I hashtagged a photo #sfpride, because I liked the idea of having a repository where I could see Facebook friends’ Pride celebrations, only to realize that everyone was using different hashtags. #pride2015 #loveislove #pride #sfpride #pridesf, #prideinsanity, #lovepride. Sigh.
6. A recent hashtag I saw on Facebook
What even is this?
If you ever feel the need to use this hashtag or one similar to it, delete some fucking hashtags. Adding another hashtag to your list of hashtags is not a rational response to realizing you’ve listed too many hashtags, nor is it cute or funny.
Also — said no one: “I found this great post when I searched #revittillitblows.”
Hashtags have a purpose
Hashtags can, in rare moments, be funny. Maybe you take a photo of the inside of your nostril — like really get up in there — and then throw a #headshots hashtag on it. All those people who are looking for serious, beautiful headshots will see the inside of your nostril. Pretty fantastic.
My friends Mike and Noelle recently got married. They hashtagged their wedding #HesInOve — or “he’s in love” with no “L” (so he’s in love with No-elle) — get it? That was clever and useful, because we all had a clear place to go afterward and see all the wedding photos.
The same thing happens on Twitter with trending topics; I can click on a hashtag and see all tweets related to that subject. Super convenient.
There are a million variations of this, but one popular example is asking people to share photos with a common hashtag and then giving a prize to a lucky chosen person within that group. Fine. Everyone loves prizes.
And that’s it. That’s the extent of acceptable hashtags.
In the words of my friend Lindsay:
“It’s another way for people to hide — just like calling someone limited the necessity for us to see them in person, texting limited the necessity for us to call them. Hashtags are in the same boat. We’re irrationally avoiding being judged by what we say in the sentences we create.”
So: for the love of clear, efficient communication — and because most of us already have way too many bad jokes to muddle through each day — please stop using the hashtag to bypass writing comprehensible thoughts.