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"Hashtags" - A Quick Look with its Effects to Modern Social Media

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By Daniel Joseph Cruz | May 12, 2014 1:17 PM EST

The "Hashtag" or previously called the pound symbol has become part of modern popular culture. It began as a way to search for trending topics, tagging posts, and later evolved in to use of almost any purpose whatsoever.


The Twitter symbol is displayed at the post where the stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, in this November 15, 2013, file photo. Twitter Inc shares slipped on December 2, 2013, after some of the five lead underwriters of its initial public offering said the social media firm may not achieve Facebook-like scale and its stock may not rise much higher. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

The official creator of the hashtag function on the internet is Chris Messina. He is a UX designer (User Experience) who now works for Google. The hashtag's function was created when Twitter in its early days had users complaining about the difficulty to sort or search groups. Messina injected the pound sign as a tracking tool into the tweet itself. By simply adding the single character, he made a great new way to sort content without having to develop a new system for the website.

Years passed and the tagging system became an indispensible function, becoming a cultural icon that shaped the current social media. Other social media giants followed suit and adopted the hashtag as it became undeniably popular.

The Good

According to social media research studies, Hashtags are keywords great for finding a target audience, which is now utilised by big businesses. Before, hashtags were only used for personal posts. But it has now proven to be an effective tool by any individual, group, or company to attract more people to see your content. Including hashtags in posts increases the potential traffic for a certain site, thus making any online content to reach more people. For example, in the past huge storms and tragedies in many countries, the hashtag functions spread helpful information to the public on how to send in aid and more.

A research shown through an infographic says that "Tweets that include hashtags receive 2X more engagement than those without," quoted from Social Caffeine.

The Bad

The hashtag has its fair share of misuse where they appear in places, or issues that serve no sensible function at all. "It is a command. The four perpendicular lines have become shorthand for 'share this and share this now.' Hashtags turn a phrase into a slogan," reported Huffington Post.

Ruth Page, professor at the University of Leicester who focuses on social media and language, said that "the hashtag says, 'This is something you need to have your attention drawn to right at this moment,' and 'This is something you can get involved with and be associated with and show your support for,'" in the same report from HP.

Other social media experts say that hashtags evolved into promoting an endless cycle of spreading rebroadcasts where actions afterwards aren't truly made.

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The Twitter symbol is displayed at the post where the stock is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, in this November 15, 2013, file photo. Twitter Inc shares slipped on December 2, 2013, after some of the five lead underwriters of its initial public offering said the social media firm may not achieve Facebook-like scale and its stock may not rise much higher. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files
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