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Dear #hashtag user,

I’ve noticed recently that you are quite the fan of this clever linking device. However, I think that you misunderstood its purpose of functionality. You see, the hashtag was created as a method to “tag” tweets, essentially adding organization to the clutter that consumes the Twitter-sphere.

For example, if I were hoping to connect with people in the fashion industry, I could search #fashion and, immediately, thousands of tweets would show up that include the same hashtag. By searching #Obamacare, I can access the opinion and news results of all who are discussing the controversial matter.

Upon conception, the hashtag was (and still is) a brilliant piece of digital creation.

However, I have noticed that you, Mr./Mrs. hashtag user, have used this tool completely out of context. The hashtag is no longer a method of organization, but is now a form of language that is substituting complete thoughts.

Examples include:

“Looking forward to my trip to the Bahamas. Is Friday here yet!? #excited #cantwait”


“This weather is killing me! All I want to do it go for a run, but I can’t in this rain. #RainRainGoAway”

What, on Earth, has the use of these hashtags accomplished? Personally, I am a fan of how GIZMODO phrased its frustration, stating, “But at their most annoying, the colloquial hashtag has burst out of its use as a sorting tool and become a linguistic tumor—a tic more irritating than any banal link or lazy image meme.”

Now, I’m not calling you lazy. No, this annoying use of the English language is not lazy. However, these simple misapplications of a hashtag have turned into a much larger infraction.

Recently, you have begun using hashtags as a way to self promote, hoping that the more hashtags you use in a post, the more likely you will acquire new followers. Your thought is similar to the practices of SEO – use key words and hopefully show up in search results.

A word to the wise? When you do this – people like me will ignore your post completely.

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This is merely a desperate attempt at being seen. Seriously? How many people are searching the hashtags #orange or #thegreatpumpkin?

So, I beg of you, Mr. or Mrs. hashtag user. Think before you # it.

Don’t believe me? Then check out this video of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon. They have no qualms about showing you how stupid you sound when misusing hashtags.

I was reading this post this morning from Cool News and wanted to share these insights.  It is quite interesting how #hashtags have taken off.  Do you use them?  What are your favorite #hashtags?

A group of Cornell computer scientists have released a study of Twitter #hashtags, and why some topics catch on quickly while others languish, reports Natasha Singer in the New York Times (2/7/11). The study “analyzed the 500 most popular hashtags among more than three billion messages posted on Twitter from August 2009 and January 2010.” It found that “the latest conversational idioms,” such as #cantlivewithout or #dontyouhate, tend to picked up more quickly than “contentious themes like politics,” where people need to see a topic “four, five or six times on Twitter before posting it themselves.”

This might explain why the hashtag #icantdateyou scored 274,000 mentions on Twitter in a single hour last Tuesday, while #Mubarak garnered just 11,000 during the same timeframe (granted, the Egyptian government had cut off the internet at the time). However, regardless of the topic, “people often wait until a number of friends or trusted sources have promoted an idea before promulgating it themselves.” The “structure of a social network” also matters “more than the size of the group,” with a smaller, more connected group wielding relatively more influence than a larger, less connected one: a tweet by a leading blogger with a few thousand followers could be more influential than Ashton Kutcher’s six million devotees.

Similarly, Stanford University researchers found that, in some cases, “bloggers, over time, had more influence than mainstream publications.” The study actually provides “a quantitative way to predict which stories will hold attention and which will fade rapidly, based on who covers the material first.” The study’s authors predict that, within a few years “we will be at a stage where marketers will be more mathematical and less intuition driven.” Meanwhile, a 2009 study of Cyworld, a South Korean social-networking site, ironically found that the least connected network members tended to be more influenced by friends’ purchases than the most connected members, who “often resist peer influences.” ~ Tim Manners, editor.

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