Oh and What is a Hashtag???

oh and what is a hashtag???

Ok, I’ve heard this comment from so many otherwise tech savvy people that I’d like to take a moment to explain hashtags. There are many explanations on the internet- but here’s mine, short and sweet (I hope).

A hashtag is a pound sign (#) in front of a word or series of words that becomes a clickable link to everything else that has the same hashtag in the place where it’s posted (say, twitter or Facebook). In effect, it has two functions.

1. Hashtags allow you to be part of gigantic public conversations about specific topics. For instance, if you see the hashtag #gameofthrones in someone’s post, and you click on it, you will be lead to a page that includes EVERYTHING BY ANYONE that has the #gameofthrones hashtag added to it. Read the comments on the #gameofthrones page and contribute your own, be part of a very big public conversation about this show. This holds for everything, whether it’s #gameof thrones #yesallwomen or #worldcup. Go ahead, click on those to see what I mean. 

2. Hashtags allow writers to add subtext to their posts. Consider these two posts: “Making fish tonight” vs. “Making fish tonight. #savetheocean #radiation #sorrynotsorry # mmmmm.” Both are about what the writer is having for dinner, but the second one has hashtags that add several layers of dimension to the simple post about a simple meal. This can be done sincerely or for comedic effect.

Hashtags “trend,” meaning certain ones will become big for a short period of time, with millions of people adding them to posts, and then they’ll fade again to be replaced by the next one. Some hashtags are topical (like about TV shows, famous people or big events like the World Cup or the Oscars) but they don’t have to be. They can also tag beliefs, attitudes, commitments or signify that you’re participating in something. I know that’s a lame duck explanation, but here are some examples- for instance, some folks will share a favorite inspirational quote every day and tag it #dailywisdom, or will post about things they’re thankful for under #attitudeofgratitude. Others will post about a perhaps-unwise personal decision they’ve made using #yolo (You Only Live Once).

Oh and that’s another thing, many hashtags are acronyms. The internet has given rise to a constant and ever-shifting acronym vocabulary. If you find a string of letters you can’t figure out, just google it. #fwiw, google is amazing. ;)

Do you understand hashtags now? Here are a few FAQs that might get you there.

Why are all the words smooshed together? Hashtags never have spaces. The pound sign indicates to the computer that everything which comes after it before the next space is to be made into a link.

Can anyone make a hashtag? Yes! Anyone can make a hashtag out of anything! That is the beauty of hashtags. You can even create your own and see if can trend, meaning you can get other people to start using it. Or you can use it to create a personal archive of specific types of things you post. For instance, I could start adding #comingupsimone to everything I share about good luck I’ve had, and then when I click on #comingupsimone it’ll be a compendium of my good luck, unless of course someone else starts tagging #comingupsimone. One thing you can’t do with a hashtag is “copyright” it.

Are there rules to hashtags? As I’ve mentioned, they can’t have any spaces. Capitalization doesn’t matter, though you can capitalize to make long hashtags easier to read. Sometimes judicious capitalization is very important- #kidswhoread -> #KidsWhoRead. A librarian friend of mine made that mistake recently, #oops #notwhatimeant

Are hashtags just a trend that I can ignore? You can certainly ignore anything you want. But hashtags are definitely on the rise- they started in Twitter and have spread to all other social networks; they’ve even made their way off your screen and into your life, as when Vogue included this hashtag under a picture of Kim & Kanye #MostTalkedAboutCoupleInTheWorld. They’re making their way into spoken language as well, which I personally find hilarious.

So. #nowyouknow.

Written by Simone on June 19, 2014


Anonymous on June 19, 2014


Thank you!!!

Anonymous on June 25, 2014

In reply to by Anonymous


are hashtags just for twitter posts?

Carolyn on June 19, 2014


Thanks for explaining that! it's not so complicated once you know!

Anonymous on June 19, 2014


Ignore it because by the time you get it,it will change. Kidding. Thanks for the information. Now I know what # means. I thought it was the symbol for numbers only,but it has morphed into a new thing. cool

EG-Keith on June 19, 2014


Thanks so much, Simone, for the "everything you wanted to know about hashtags but were afraid of asking". Your explanation is easy to follow. Thanks again!

CB on June 20, 2014


My favorite "Did You Know?" about hashtags is that Twitter didn't support them initially and that they were invented by the user base.

People would write them, and then use http://search.twitter.com to find other people using the same tag. Only after it gained a certain amount of popularity did Twitter start supporting it natively.

Anonymous on June 21, 2014


And I was just thinking about checking into what # means. Thanks for making this easy.

Simone on June 23, 2014


I'm glad you guys found my post helpful! And yes, I love the story about the birth of the hashtag, a regular twitter user just suggesting it. Did she know the impact she'd have on modern language? So nifty. And if you wanna go all deep about hashtags (hello #datafreaks?), the hashtag is open source, crowd sourced metadata tagging. What could be sexier than that?!?

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