Hashtags may seem a peculiar thing to write about as an editor – they don’t generally feature in more formal texts, nor are they common on websites. However, they make an interesting case subject: this tiny symbol carries a whole world of meaning in its four intersecting strokes.
Twitter and Instagram made hashtags popular by making them a clickable feature: click on a word or phrase with a hashtag in front of it, and you will see a list of every instance in which others have used the same combination. This concept eventually spread to other platforms, like Facebook. It is a convenient way to group ideas and information; but is there more to it than that?
Language and symbol use is inherently social – it is the means by which one person can communicate their inner thoughts and feelings with another. The humble hashtag plays an important role in connecting people, thoughts and ideas – in essence, it is a shortcut to meaning. It is an indicator that automatically links to popular conceptions or common experiences. For example, #winning #gettingswoll #oneofthosedays.
While it’s unlikely that hashtags will ever find their place in formal writing, they have become a powerful and important tool in settings such as social media. Businesses who want to connect with the culture and potential customers can use hash tags to build a sense of familiarity and relevance.