The hashtag was birthed by Twitter user Chris Messina on the 23rd of August 2007 to instantiate SMS or IM clients without the need for a website. He found inspiration from the likes of Jaiku channels and Flickr tags and proceeded to deliver a much sought-after group-messaging implementation. The result? One of the most influential revolutions presented to social media of all time.
The hashtag harnessed the power to influence political revolts and social movements (find out more here) but also the humility to become a part of our everyday lives. The hashtag has become cross-platform dimensional and seems to be gaining more influence over modern-day society than ever thought possible.
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Hashtags build communities out of like-minded individuals. One does not need to be an industry professional content curator to start a social media movement: activists flock to the internet to gain as much traction as possible, and they are not rebels with signs looting in the street, they are anyone with a cellphone that has an internet connection. We can only hope that the nature of these movements lends themselves to positive change, such as the Libyan Revolution.
Misuse and disinformation
Fake news is one example of hashtag misuse. Russia sought to influence the U.S presidential election in 2016 with efforts of posting misleading information (even reports of imminent violence) concerning one of the represented parties by adding the hashtag #Gunreformnow vs. #NRA.
Fake accounts are another example of misuse as they are generated to gain traction on the social media platform that they are created by posting within minutes of each other. Paid trolls are another concern, as these are people that will post, like, comment, share and hashtag absolutely anything for money.
The Good News
The hashtag is not all bad, just like any powerful thing, if placed in the right hands, it can be used for the greater good. Hashtags have widened the horizons for business owners, jobseekers, educators, students and so many more different groups of people due to this simple fact: hashtags connect like-minded individuals. Research has proved that hashtags have boosted Revenue on Income by 400% through increased marketing.
They have also made NGO’s, charities and foundations more visible on social media, allowing more exposure to public donations, also, they draw attention to concerning environmental matters such as #NODAPL which stood for the preservation of seawater and ancient burial grounds that might have been undermined by the Dakota Access Pipeline in the United States.
Human and animal rights are also justified with the humble hashtag, from areas addressing poverty to people locating lost pets, these interconnected groups of people are standing together to help each other, wildlife, and even our pets.
Social justice has boomed since people can raise an alarm about the crimes which go unnoticed in today’s modern world, such as human trafficking and domestic violence, worldwide change has been influenced. Cultural and religious entities have also found their niche in the hashtag. People no longer need to be inside a building to share spiritual enlightenment.
Every time you post, share, like or comment, remember the weight that a hashtag holds, use it wisely, as it has the power to connect and influence a global proportion. Be part of the change, instead of a selfie or meme, why not share or create a post that is sentimental to you? You never know, maybe you could start a revolution!