The evolution of #Hashtags on Social Media

Those annoying yet useful things called #hashtags have evolved. Here's how....

Hashtags: A love/hate relationship.

Those little number signs have invaded our social media with frenzied popularity. But what are they exactly? What do they do? And why are they everywhere?!

Many of you already know that those little number signs or pound signs used before words or phrases are called hashtags. They are used on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram and generally intended for identifying posts on a specific topic. For example, if you are posting something about the Superbowl, you could use #superbowl to identify your post and join in the larger social media conversation about the topic. Hashtags make it easy for people to find and connect with other social media users and discuss a topic. Furthermore, they help users get their account discovered and gain a larger following on social media since it makes their content easier to find by likeminded people. These are obviously the originally intended uses of hashtags, though it is my opinion that their use has evolved. Hashtags are now a form of punctuation!

Using a hashtag that is longer than a few words is pragmatically useless, not to mention nearly impossible to understand. For example, probably not many people out there are searching for #mylouboutinsarefillingupwithmud. That hashtag accompanied by a photo of a clearly over-dressed girl in the middle of a cornfield who perhaps didn’t get the memo about the dress code, however, is pretty hilarious. Hashtags are beginning to be used to accentuate a certain phrase, idea or word for humor or emphasis. Not only does the hashtagged word or phrase turn the text bold and sometimes a different color, it makes the word or phrase by default stand out as an individualized important idea from the rest of the caption.

The evolution of language is a fascinating topic. Meanings of words, the political correctness of words and grammar evolve constantly with society. Welcome the hashtag to the punctuation family! Now go post something funny and #hashtag that punchline, baby!

#hashtags #hashtag #socialmedia #instagram #facebook #tumblr #twitter #grammar #anyabenton #language

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