Hashtags in Popular Culture

By: Ryan

They are everywhere. On advertisements, t-shirts, websites, TV, even in the news. Yes, I am referring to the legendary hashtag. Some people love them, some people hate them, but just about everyone has used or at least referred to one sometime in the recent years. Hashtags are a recent phenomenon in popular culture that began its rise to fame back six years ago on the social media network “Twitter”, when its user base decided to begin using words and phrases prefixed by a pound sign (#) used to categorize the corresponding post. It didn’t take long for Twitter as a cooperation to recognize the potential power the hashtag held, and implemented it as part of its design, allowing users to search based on a specific hashtag (Turner). Since then, hashtags have been adopted by just about every social media network out there, and is prevalent all over the world in many different cultures. Hashtags are important to contemporary popular culture because they are so widely used, they have crossed a generation gap, and companies are beginning to try and capitalize on them.

First of all, hashtags are important to popular culture today because they are so widely used. Hashtags have engrained themselves in our culture, and it didn’t take very long to do so. In the matter of just a few years, hashtags managed to go from a completely new concept to a worldwide social trend used by millions of people. These uses aren’t only restricted to social media networks like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, but they are now also being used in all kinds of media. Even just recently, a video segment starring Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon aired mocking hashtags and displaying how much they are used in our culture today. The video also gets a lot of credit for showing us how dumb we sound when we use all of these ridiculous hashtags in everyday speech, which became a trend not too long ago. (Video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57dzaMaouXA). An article from the New York Times reflecting on the growth of the hashtag says that, “Over time, though, the hashtag has evolved into something else — a form that allows for humor, darkness, wordplay and, yes, even poetry,” (Turner). Now, I personally think it is somewhat of a stretch to call it a medium of its own, but it does make sense. Hashtags are so widely used today in so many different contexts in everyday life and speech (mostly by the younger generation), that they are impossible to ignore in our society.

Hashtags have also managed to cross a generation gap from the youth of today to older social media users. Although it is far less frequent, there are plenty of adults who use hashtags on a regular basis. For example, during Black Friday of last year, the hashtag “#blackfriday” boomed on every social media network. I know for a fact that it wasn’t all just teenagers posting info about Black Friday, as I witnessed my parents searching Twitter and Facebook for postings containing the hashtag. This new form of searching is used by everyone with a social media account, and that includes adults too, regardless of if they use them excessively like most teenagers or not.

Finally, hashtags are important to popular culture because companies are trying to capitalize on them. This comes back to the hegemonic view of popular culture that we talked about in class. The idea that it is the upper class that dictates what is popular in today’s culture. Now, even though we know that it wasn’t the upper class that created the hashtag, they certainly are trying their best to capitalize on it. Companies like Nike are creating apparel, bags, even shoes that contain hashtags on them promoting the Nike brand. There are also plenty of other companies using hashtags to try and market their products, and try to seem “hip”. There are many advertisements out there involving hashtags whether on billboards, commercials, or posters, and this is a perfect example of how companies and the upper class can influence popular culture.

Hashtags are important to today’s contemporary popular culture because they are widely used, they have crossed a generation, and companies are trying to capitalize on them. Since their creation just a few years ago, hashtags have really taken off and have been widely used mostly by younger people. However, this phenomenon has exploded all over the world, and continues to be widely used all over in social media.

 

Works Cited:

Turner, Julia. “#InPraiseOfTheHashtag.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Nov.     2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.

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