Hashtags are to the social web what emoticons were to Web 1.0 and TXTing. While both are forms of expression and sentiment, there is one subtle, but vital difference. Hashtags are not only part of online culture, they are defining a new era of communication on the Web and IRL (in real life). With over 140 million Tweets flying across Twitter every day, hashtags surface a method to the madness – the ability to group conversations into an organized timeline. But what started out as a way to index conversations in Twitter has now substantially altered how people convey, relay and discover information in and out of the popular nichework. The hashtag has also become an effective form of #selfexpression.
In social media, “x” no longer marks the spot, “#” is now the indicator for popular culture and all that moves it. In the social economy, the hashtag is an indicator of value in the Twitter information exchange. Each hashtag represents revolving markets with varying lifespans determined by the significance of the conversation and its continuously fleeting demand. Some last only minutes, while others endure for hours or days.
While many struggle to understand the value of Twitter, those who get it are literally changing how they connect and talk to one another. At some point, a chasm emerges between those who use Twitter and those who do not. In other channels where Twitter users and other non-users are connected, for example email or text messaging, the culture of conversation becomes noticeably divergent. To begin with, Twitter users, like txters, are groomed to speak with brevity. Subconsciously aware of the character constraints of Twitter, communication is concise, to the point, with an emphasis on shortform bursts. This digital shorthand if you will is only part of what’s changing. Digital anthropologists have long observed the impact of text messaging on the ability to write in longhand. R U surprised? Prolly not…LOL! Twitter will also become the subject of educational studies to prove that the culture code of communication is transcending status updates to affect everyday engagement. Specifically within 140-character inspired transmissions, the hashtag is playing an important role.