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Thursday, September 4, 2014

What is a Hashtag and Why do People use Them?

A hashtag is just a search term. Most people are familiar with using search terms in Google to find things that they are interested in. Hashtags are just search terms that people make up for certain situations. 

Here are some reasons that people use hashtags:

1. To find other people that have the same interests. You can go to Twitter or Facebook and type #yoga to find people who are interested in Yoga. In Facebook if I type yoga in the search terms it takes me directly to's Facebook page. If I type #yoga it takes me to a list of status posts of people who are talking about yoga. 

2. To keep up with what others are saying about a news story.  Type #Fergason or #Fergasonshooting to catch up with what is going on in St. Louis after the Mike Brown shooting. Stories like this often disappear from the news, but are not gone. Hashtags in Twitter are a way of keeping up after it has disappeared from the front page. Another interesting one is #ISIS

3. Keep up with a political campaign. I have not heard much about Wendy Davis lately (most likely I have not been reading the paper carefully enough) so I was interested to see what was going on right now. I typed in #WendyDavis and was taken to a page in Twitter that updated me on some things, but also pointed out articles in various sources that I might want to read.

4.  To connect with people and learn about a health condition that you are experiencing. Try typing in #multipleschlerosis into Twitter and Facebook to see what you get back. I think this may be a good way to find others who are experiencing what you are and also to access current information on the disease.

5. To follow along with a conference that you are unable to attend. Many people "tweet" as they listen to a conference presentation including pictures and links to what is happening. You can go to that # and participate in a small way without being there. Try #iste2014. Some of the posts lead to actual recordings of sessions so that you can listen to the whole thing. 

6. To do a group or family chat. If you have a group that is interested in talking together about the same thing, but are geographically separated you can send out information to everyone about a Twitter Chat.  You tell them what the hashtag will be and also what time you all plan to be online. This makes it more like a conversation than a list of people commenting on something. Also people who cannot be there at that time can go back and participate later. Try #4thChat which is a weekly chat for 4th Grade Teachers. People post in between chats, but you can see that many of the posts are clustered around one date. Look at August 4, 11, 18, and 25!

7. To amuse yourself. If you like cats you can try #cats, or maybe #jokes to see what you can find!  I tried #chocolate. You could lose a lot of time this way.

Hashtags can also be codes for something. Here are a few that are interesting.
#chirped = got caught
#420 = marijuana
#livingdangerously = taking selfies while driving or some other unsafe behavior (actually pretty funny)
#selfie = taking a picture of self
#ootd = outfit of the day

I noticed that sometimes when I searched for something the first thing on the page did not fit in with my search. There are paid 'tweets' that go to the top of a search and so often when you go to a search you can skip the first few. They are marked as ads. Hashtags worked best on Twitter. They are used on Facebook, but not as often.