The Power Of The Hashtags



Eli McBroom

Before Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook entered the internet realm the pound-sign was used to group messages, content, and videos into categories.

According to twitter, the first time the “hashtag” appeared on their platform was when one of its developers Chris Messina used it to spark conversation using #barcamp. And on August 23rd 2007 he tweeted “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” and got a reply from twitter co- founder Biz stone sarcastically saying “Sure, well get right on that.”

Another user, San Diego resident Nate Ridder used the # to spread awareness about ongoing forest fires in his area. In 2007 Ridder began using #sandiegofire to inform people about California’s drought and forest fire problem.  

The term “hashtag” was coined by blogger Stowe Boyd 10 years ago and was slowly but surely adopted as the official term for the use of the pound sign as a tool for grouping relevant content into one place.

In October 2009 twitter was the first large platform to formally adopt hashtags as part of their website. Essentially anything with the # in front would be hyperlinked. Shortly after the social media platform released a trending topics sections where the most popular hashtags would become featured.

10 years later an average of 125 million hashtags are used a day to engage and !converse on Twitter. But that’s just twitter. Since the hashtag has come about its used on every major social media platform including Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

But hashtags are more than numbers and measuring tools. In the past decade they have become a part of pop culture and have changed the internet in a major way. Hashtags have become a way to spark conversation, gather data, stay informed and voice your opinion.

The hashtag is extremely diverse and has become a source of power for many groups. One of the best examples for this is #blacklivesmatter. The hashtag started five years ago when news of an unarmed black seventeen year old named Trayvon Martin was fatally shot on febuary 26th. And shortly after his killer, George Zimmerman who claims he shot out of self-defense was acquitted of murder by a Florida jury. Many people across all platforms expressed their rage at the verdict and it became very talked about online.

But, it wasn’t till after police officer  Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in Ferguson that the online presence of #blacklivesmatter grew immensely.

The presence of hashtags have been very important for awareness and support throughout our world. Many people show support and love for victims of crisis by a simple use of a hashtag. After the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13th 2015 people across the world used #prayforparis to show their support and loving words to the city in a time where they needed it.

Last year after over 25 young girls went missing in Washington d.c in the span of 24 hours and #findourgirls went viral. The hashtag drew attention to a situation that many felt wasn’t getting enough.

With the help of celebrity platforms, news outlets, major companies, and strong minded people a simple hashtag can grow into a full on movement.

At the same time hashtags can be something very simple, funny, or ridiculous. Earlier this year “POTUS” Donald Trump tweeted “Despite the negative press covfefe” and the internet went crazy. #covfefe trended globally on twitter as people joked and speculated as to what the mysterious new word could mean. One user wrote “I had a late pot of covfefe and now I’m wide awake”

The hashtag is how we connect and explore the internet and is one of the most resourceful tools for connecting on the web. So with that I think we should all wish the hashtag a happy 10th birthday. Here is to many more.