Week 9: #Crazy #About #Hashtags

People don’t seem to understand the power of the hashtag. Not only is it a way to add sarcastic humor to an Instagram or Twitter post, but it is also a system of organization and categorization for pop culture references, worldly topics, and even geotagging purposes. In light of the discourse my group discussed in Digital Humanities 101, we found hashtags extremely important in creating parameters for our food truck data. By searching popular and relevant hashtags about specific food trucks and their food genres, we were able to create visualizations and timelines to plot data to enhance our understanding of our topic. The advantage of enabling geotag locations on each social media post allows avid food truck fans to track and follow the location of the truck per Tweet.

Not only are hashtags important in locating the hottest food spots in Los Angeles, but they also target and broadcast national buzz-worthy topics from pop culture references, dress color confusion, sports tournaments and celebrities, to natural disasters, outbreaks, and even heated political or social concerns. People want to be ahead of the game and know about events before other people do. It is natural to be competitive. With the introduction of social media networks to our daily lives, people are turning in newspapers and TV news reports for live streaming Twitter updates, Facebook posts and questionably credible Buzz Feed articles. In fact, I found out about the Connecticut shooting and Ferguson because of social media – not the news. Where the lines get fuzzy is when you consider sharing this news with your friends and followers, and when you engage in heated discourse. A relative of ours posts constantly about her very binary thoughts regarding Ferguson and at times, her content is very off-putting. This puts my family in a hard place because we have varying opinions of the subject matter, and to have a beloved relative scrutinize and bash people with a differing opinion than hers is quite offensive. Social media is another version of freedom of speech and although it should not be regulated, individuals need to understand the appropriate social cues when it comes to online discussion to avoid ostracism, or offensive language.

7 Comments

  1. Firstly, very cool project! Did you guys do that for the DH capstone course? Incredible job.

    About hashtags: I definitely think their techno-utilitarian value is often misunderstood. However, what I find interesting about hashtags (probably because of my position as an anthropologist…) is their role in cultural transmission of learned behaviors. For instance, the tagging system on Tumblr is often used to make subliminal jokes on reblogged posts–not exactly the intended usage, but one that Tumblr users are acculturated into.

    Or what about the idea on Tumblr (and, to a much lesser extent, Twitter) that you “can’t tag hate”–so, for example, the tag #JustinBieber is for people are going to share positive messages about him and shouldn’t be usurped by haters. This norm is a cultural idea, not a technical one.

    I guess what I’m saying is that hashtagging is a pretty fruitful area of study for people who use it for its intended purpose (like you guys and your awesome food truck project) as well as for people who study how people use it incorrectly (the Tumblr users who just tag as a way of being funny) or use it in a way slightly different from its intended purpose (the cultural idea on Tumblr that tags should only be utilized by fans, not anti-fans).

  2. I read a book called “Losing the News” in a Comm class, and it talked about how people are switching the way they receive their news, greatly hurting the old ways of information distribution. With instant news feeds online, people are able to find out about anything when it happens in real time. However, with the loss of the following of structured news, anyone can post “news” updates under a certain hashtag, leading to a great influx of personal bias. Are the posts we read really news, or are they personal commentary on news?

  3. I like that you have identified the basic use of hashtags as a way of organization. These days it seems that people only think of hashtags as ironic or to get a movement trending. As a person that loves to organize and compartmentalize things, although I appreciate the power of a trending hashtag, I think my favorite aspect of a hashtag is its ability to sort the immense amount of content on the web. If I want to look up a certain brand on instagram for example, I can simply search the hashtag and my newsfeed will be full of posts relating to the brand. This simple organization is useful for everybody and often not taken advantage I believe.

  4. I was going to comment about tumblr and twitter users inventing conventions for hashtag use, but it looks like I wasn’t the first one to have that idea! I’m very interested in why/how those conventions are adopted because there is technically no inherent entertainment value to the pound symbol. Also, users’ tagging habits can cause problems for their respective platforms because they often undermine the companies’ intentions for their product–there was a lot of resistance when tumblr tried to force users to employ more practical use hashtags, for example.

  5. I really like how your pointing out hashtags. Its funny because I didn’t really think about it until I read this, but when I am on instagram or twitter a lot of the time I do search for things under hashtags. I think they are really useful, and can be used in a fun way as well adding to different social media posts.

  6. I appreciate your optimistic view of hashtags. Yes, they are criticized and scrutinized as unneccessary, but they can serve a greater purpose. I liked your point about how hashtags are a way to gather similar types of information together. You can search for relevant topics using hashtags, which is what they’re purpose is most of the time. I can also agree with the use of hashtags for humor and sarcasm. I engage with them in that way through my own social media posts.

  7. Your very post has reminded me why Facebook added the ability to use hashtags. I remember when Twitter and Tumblr were the only sources I knew for taking advantage of hashtag resources. When Facebook first introduced the hashtag system I was confused and frustrated. I even mocked those who used hashtags on Facebook. Looking at it now, this course has helped me realize just how valuable these online tools are. Just as you had mentioned in your post, I too find out about many world events and even local events through the use of hashtags. Now It is safe to say hashtags can be greatly over used and even pointless at times but when used proactively and strategically, they make great tools.
    On instagram I use hashtags when searching for other users that I am interested in. On twitter I use hashtags to find more in depth reactions to world events. Just this morning on Thursday, a plane skidded off a runway at New York LGA airport. Through hashtags on twitter I was able to find first hand encounters of the situation and see an array of photos posted by people at the scene.
    I enjoyed your post, thanks for sharing.
    – Felipe

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