Power of the Hashtag

Hashtag.

The lonered symbol on the keypad of a Nokia.

10 years ago it was used at the end of a pin code, now it is the start of a code—a trend.

The start of a social revolution acting as a catalyst for change, organisation, and engagement.  With early beginnings on Twitter in 2009, users introduced this symbol into the twittersphere to direct people to user interests. This has now evolved where members can search different hashtags anywhere in the world and join a conversation and explore the world that is the internet.

Acting as a global trend, audiences can comment on televisions shows #orangeisthenewblack, demonstrate individual expression #throwbackthursday and aid slack participation #soznotsoz thus promoting audience crowd surfing.

This phenomenon has broken through the walls of Twitter onto other social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Youtube and Pintrest and so encourages social capital. When seaching a hashtag, it simultanoeusly links the user with a specific audience with common interests. With everyone using hashtags, can it become overused? Does it lack its purpose for connecting people certain points of interests or is it used merley being integrated into everyday life and conversation?

Hashtags allow anyone to broadcast a message, so many television shows such as Xfactor and Big Brother allow for the audiences tweets to appear on the television screens providing the audience with a visible opinion.

Television show Q and A is based upon the audiences reaction and questions sent in via twitter using the hastag #QandA thus turning the audience into interviewers. As the questions are displayed on the television screen the interviewees sit upon a panel on set of the show debating possible answers to the questions sent in by the Australian audience. Thus technical convergence allows for the flow of content from the audience on home to live television through the medium of a hashtag—thus initiating conversation.

Through the power of the hashtag, the audience is able to morph into the journalist changing monologic media—encouraging passive participation and crowd silence—to dialogic media—prosumer culture allowing for individual expression without restriction. Although, with no limitations of the hashtag, this reduces the quality produced into the web as there are no filters or gatekeepers for connectivity to conversation. This also reduces the control industries have over the former consumers as content is created by amateurs, in abundance and without limitations. Consequently, the Chinese government shut down access to Twitter on the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen as there was no way to filter conversation. (Shirky.C, 2009)

However, individuals in the public are able to start a trend with the ability to transcend the barriers of all media and flow to connect the world. The #illridewithyou hashtag created by users amidst the Sydney siege. This was created with the intention to coordinate and organise a safety net for Muslims on public transport where citizens would ban together to acknowledge that the simple acts of one Muslim does not define the whole race thus diminishing racism during such a vulnerable time for all citizens. This hashtag went global, trending on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. News reporters saw the hype of this trend and used it to connect others within Australia in broadcasts—a pivotal moment of Australian mateship.

Shirkey. C, 2009 “How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history”, Ted talks, Youtube, last viewed

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