On Hashtag Abuse

Many thanks to my co-worker and friend, Katrina, for encouraging me to go ahead with the writing of this piece.

I love Twitter. I haven’t always felt this way, but now I’m confident in professing my love for the service.1 I get the news on Twitter, follow way too many Apple nerds than is probably healthy, and interact with my curated group (my account is protected) of followers. And I do all this by using the One Twitter Client to Rule Them All, Tweetbot — on my iPhone, iPad, and, in beta form, on the Mac.2 My initial skepticism of Twitter has been conquered by making the service work for me, so much so that it’s now an indispensable part of my life.

What isn’t part of my Twitter experience is hashtags. I don’t use them very often, if at all. What I tweet and to whom I tweet to doesn’t really lend itself to using them, so I don’t. Once in a while, maybe, but those times are few and far between. Having said this, I realize that the hashtag phenomenon is big, to that point that you see them on TV all the time to promote a show or whatever. That’s fine; I don’t care about that. What I do care about, though, is how so many people take hashtags and use them to such extremes that it seems comical or cliche to see them. Whereby “extremes”, I mean something like this:

OMG. So hungry. Need food now. #hungry #food #starving #sentence #words

Five hashtags — most of them trivial — is bullshit. It’s so annoying to see this in tweets and on Instagram posts. In this example, using ‘#starving’ would be perfectly acceptable because it conveys that you need food. Okay, point taken. The other four are superfluous, and the last two are downright ludicrous. Put another way, that this example has so many hashtags totally obviates the purpose of a hashtag. One, maybe two, is great. I’d say anything over three and you’re getting the inspiration for my writing this piece. I know many people who are guilty of overusing hashtags; it bugs the crap out of me. I seriously think an intervention is in order, coupled by a trip to Hashtag Abusers Anonymous.

I guess the moral here is to use hashtags judiciously. Be conservative. My hypothetical tweet about being hungry shouldn’t compel me to add something like #I’mEatingPorky’sCousinForDinner, nor should the Instagram photo of your cat sleeping compel you to add stuff about how cute the cat is, what he or she may be dreaming about, and whether they had Meow Mix or Friskies for dinner. Also, please don’t use hashtags on Facebook. If Facebook were meant for hashtags, Mark Zuckerberg would’ve added them long ago.

People of the Internet, I implore you, just stop. The madness must end.

  1. Twitter as a business is another story.  ↩

  2. I can’t wait for iCloud sync of my timeline upon the app’s official 1.0 release.  ↩