Hashtags are an important part of Twitter and are confusing for a lot of people. Let’s start with the basics. Hashtags originated as a way to group tweets. Chris Messina borrowed the idea of hashtags from the old Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels. According to the Twitter Fan Wiki, “Hashtags were popularized during the San Diego forest fires in 2007 when Nate Ritter used the hashtag ‘#sandiegofire’ to identify his updates related to the disaster.”
Hashtags have evolved as a way of adding punch lines to a tweet. For example, “I just dropped a McRib in my lap. I’m wearing white. #fail”. Or another tweet by the writer Susan Orlean, “My 7 yo has taken to calling me ‘Lady,’ as in, ‘What’s for dinner, lady?’ #wheredidigowrong.” These tweets add irony and sarcasm. Others have used hashtags to create large slumber party like conversations with hashtags like “#IWannaKnowWhy.”
Hashtags make twitter fun. For example, during the 2013 Superbowl, the power went out at the stadium. We were hosting a party with our neighbors and I started reading tweets on the hashtag “#superbowl” and “#blackout”. It made the hour break feel a lot shorter. Everyone was rolling on the floor laughing. Tide tweeted “We can’t get your #blackout, but we can get your stains out. #SuperBowl #TidePower pic.tiwtter.com/JpQBRvif”. Frank Caliendo tweeted “Never use the toaster and the microwave at the same time during the Superbowl. #LightsOut.” According to the New York Times, “The people at Twitter are fond of saying that the hashtag is the new URL — and it’s true that you’re just as likely to see the former as the latter these days on-screen at the end of a movie trailer.”
How have you used hashtags?