I think it was just after week one, I had started exploring WordPress blog posts and came across a post about Twitter hashtags and how they help people get the news in real time. It happened to be one of the most recent posts or comments of the week, and it got me thinking immediately.
I am still fairly new to the world of hashtags. I don’t personally use Twitter – generally if I’m on it, it’s for work and I tweet about what beers or special events my bar has going on. I use Instagram for personal enjoyment, but my followers remain my friends, because I don’t use hashtags to spark any interest from the rest of the Instagram world. Basically, I don’t use them for popularity.
I see the benefit in hashtags. They can help you search social media outlets for topics of interest and posts containing trending topics of the day. But I think that’s my main issue with them and where I become frustrated: they are just too trendy!
One thing that irks me the most when it comes to hashtags is how they seem to simplify big world events into no more than a pound symbol followed by a few words. The tragic Ottawa shooting (#OttawaStrong), the massacre in Paris (#JeSuisCharlie), the kidnapped girls in Nigeria (#BringBackOurGirls) – they are all extremely important issues and yes, the hashtags certainly helped the news reach a wider audience, perhaps informing people across the country or world that didn’t pick up a newspaper that day. But for me, I feel like so much of this hashtagging pandemic is people simply hopping on a social media trend bandwagon to garner more likes and followers, rather than stepping up and taking any real action.
I did a bit of Googling and YouTubing and learned this action (or lack thereof?) is known as ‘hashtag activism’ (click here for a not so sarcastic definition). Flip forward a week or two after each of these events, and who is really talking about them? Who is still using the hashtag? People show their support for only a moment, but the next event comes along and the world hops onto that wagon instead. I am not saying everyone stops caring, but the world of hashtags makes me think people are too comfortable to hide behind their computer screens rather than step up and take real action or protest to the right people of power over the important issues. I would like to think we can change that, but no one likes to be taken out of their comfort zone, do they?