The Humble Hashtag

Leule Brook

The hashtag is severely underrated. It’s often a one-line punchline to dismiss Millenial trends. That’s a shame because the #Hashtag is #SoMuchMore. This little symbol will be recorded as a major step in the development of human knowledge itself, here’s why: 

It is used to associate one anecdotal piece of online content to a larger global conversation. Hashtags serve as reliable identifiers, tags or metadata for both trivial shower thoughts and historic announcements with geopolitical consequences. The use of hashtags ultimately helps locate, gather, sort and categorize information generated by hundreds of millions of contributors across continents. 

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Image Credit: Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

Unlike Natural Language Processing (NLP), the hashtag is available to the masses: for the people by the people.

The implications of this are mind-blowing! 

Archaeologists and anthropologists can infer lifestyles from broken pots of clay. Palaeontologists can describe the strut of an animal that died a million years ago, from the fossilized poop of whatever ate it. Hashtags are capturing raw data on the spirit of our times. Hashtag-based analyses could shed light on the genealogy and propagation of ideas, the evolution of language and ultimately the development (or decay) of culture. 

Today, graduates thank Google and Wikipedia for unfettered access to a world of information. Ten years from now, historians, anthropologists, sociologists, marketers, and political operatives will thank the hashtag for providing insight into society.

Next time you use a hashtag, remember: we are literally #MakingHistoryTogether.

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Image Credit: Social Media Research Foundation

– Leule Brook

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