Earlier this summer New York Magazine’s Jeff Wisler wrote a piece called “The 7 Types of Hashtag Abusers” which so brilliantly put into words a deep, personal animosity for hashtags that has been growing ever stronger in my heart. Wisler puts hashtag abusers on blast, calling out several categories of misuse, including:
- The Hashtag Stuffer: The most common form of hashtag abusers. The Stuffer is incapable of simply sharing a photo of his July Fourth fireworks; he festoons it with #firework #fireworks #july4th #July4 #pretty #boom! #red #white #blue #1776bitches!
- The Verbal Hashtagger: Someone who actually says the word “hashtag” in conversation. Exhibit A: Kasey, the Bachelorette contestant, who charms women with phrases — spoken out loud! — like “hashtag marriage material” and “hashtag let the journey begin.”
- The Hack-tagger: Created by a company, brand, or political organization. The classic example is McDonald’s, who used #McDStories to ask for heartwarming stories about the golden arches. The result? A gleeful backlash of tweets like “Ate a McFish and vomited 1 hour later …. #McDstories.”
- The Gratuitous Event Hashtagger: You no longer go to the beach, now you go to the #beach, where we’re more likely to play with our phones than play in the waves. If you’re grilling burgers and dogs? Step one is to pour the charcoal, step two is to hashtag #bbq. It’s only a matter of time before, on Sunday mornings, the pious whip out their phones while at #church.
I thought I hated hashtags; I thought they were a lazy excuse to avoid full sentences and proper punctuation (is the pound sign considered “punctuation?”), and to string together totally unassociated thoughts and concepts. But Mr. Wisler has helped me understand that it is not the hashtag itself that I despise, but the misuse of it. The hashtag as a language tool is actually quite effective in efficiently communicating emotion and context
As Julia Turner of the New York Times writes, “[T]he hashtag gives the writer the opportunity to comment on his own emotional state, to sarcastically undercut his own tweet, to construct an extra layer of irony, to offer a flash of evocative imagery or to deliver metaphors with striking economy.” With minimal characters hashtags can add depth, link and build communities, and fuel movements.
So, on the heels of Tuesday’s National Punctuation Day and in honor of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s fabulous #Hashtag skit, I ponder how hashtag abusers might someday slip them into journalism and literature. They’ve managed to slime their way from Twitter to Facebook to text message, spurring commentary in all aspects of media. The day when hashtags are used to cull data and add color to traditional news media might not be far off. Look out parentheses and semicolons, the pound sign is moving in.