Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How Brooke feels about the modern use of the #hashtag

So last night I was keyboard punching away at the blog, and explaining to Mum about how I'd pretty much hijacked it for the purposes of Directed Studies, and then she advised that I 'make sure you're not alienating your original audience'.

I'm not too sure of the demographics of my original audience, but I do know that the last two months, the posts have pretty much been Costumes. This one is a little different, because I was then like 'what do I actually post about? Like, just adventures and stuff. Thoughts about things.

For reasons I can't fathom, the post with the most hits is the one I wrote at the start of 2011 about binary dates.

And then I thought of something else that an opinion can be given on, that can be presented in blog format.
No, it's not my argument about a second season of Firefly. It's the rise of the Hashtag.

I believe it started with Twitter. And then Tumblr, and then Instagram. So, a bunch of social-media websites where the amount of space for a post was limited somewhat.

And it does have a purpose with this I guess. They're useful to the rest of us in classifying the nature of the post.

So, I go looking for a gif of, say, Gavin Free's (from Rooster Teeth) reaction to having soggy bread slapped on his desk (running outside and falling over like a ragdoll). (It was part of an RTLife video they uploaded to youtube last week or something.) I search the tags for 'Gavin Free'.

Boom. Gif file found.

So, when used as a method of searching, tags are pretty useful. Provided your social media platform allows for that kind of filing.

And then Twitter and Instagram.

I mean, tags are useful for filing with these platforms as well, but they're also used to express emotion or thoughts. And this is kind of useful too. It can give context to something that otherwise would make no sense.

I mean, I could tweet something like

"Pleats, you are my joy and my pain."

And that, with no context, makes no sense. But you only get a limited amount of space for explaining what you're doing with your day.

So I add hashtags for relevance.

"Pleats, you are my joy and my pain. #cosplayerproblems #hakama"

Now you know that the box pleats have something to do with whatever kind of cosplay I'm making. because I've added the hashtag for hakama, you can probably guess that it has something to do with the giant pleated pants that are dated to Edo-period Japan and used for Kendo, Akido and various cosplays.

But seriously. I tend to make these things out of cotton drill, which is a medium-heavy weight fabric but creases like you wouldn't believe. And there's a lot of fabric in those pants. They totally are joy and pain.


Hashtags when used for filing and searching are useful.
Hashtags for providing snippets of context are useful.

Why to a lot of people hate them then?

I have a couple of guesses.

For starters, they don't use the typical grammar conventions that we would otherwise use in everyday life. We don't use hashtags in speech (often. You can hear them sometimes when people sum things up really quickly). We don't use hashtags in prose.

It's something that has a time and a place to be, and that time and place is not always 'here' and 'now'.

Back in the days when phones had a keypad and could be kicked over buildings, reassembled, and suffer no harm, text message speech was a lot more common.

U instead of 'You'
R instead of 'Are'

And so on. Some made sense when read out loud. Some just made you sound silly. I will never, ever write 'sorry' as 'soz' ever again, for example.

Why is that?

Well, if I'm apologising for something, I need to mean it. Writing 'soz' isn't the best way to meaningfully apologise to anyone. 'Soz' says 'I need to say 'sorry' but it's too much time and effort to actually put in the two extra characters, so I'll leave it at that.'

Fair go, text message space was limited. But we don't use the language conventions as much now because we have access to fancy things like qwerty keyboards and autocorrect. I remember a time in school when we were lectured on needing to use proper English conventions in exams and essays and that's because there is a time and a place for text message speech.

And it is not on a place like the internet. Not any more. Comments box; facebook status; blog post. We're a culture and society that directly associates proper grammar conventions and spelling with the intelligence of a person.

This is a little unfair at times. But it's how things are.

So where does the hashtag belong then?

It's a useful device for short summations, context and filing.

It's less helpful when you have someone post a hashtag on a place that has no use for it.

e.g. Facebook.

I mean, we can still use it for conveying emotions or giving context. But the posting space isn't as limited. It's a little like using text message language in the world of qwerty keyboards, autocorrect and larger message sizes.

I can see the point of them, but I also have mixed feelings about them. About using them profusely on platforms that have little-to-no use for them, where they don't fit with the grammar conventions.

I mean, "#timeforabreak #timeforanintervention #justwaituntiltheyactuallyaddhashtagingtofacebooktheniwillbeunstoppable"?

No man.

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