Once upon a time, hashtags–the term used to describe “#” in its use for digital metadata organization–were exclusive to Twitter. Slowly but surely, they’ve begun to creep their way into other forms of social media. I first noticed the #invasion when my Facebook friends would cross-post from Twitter, and these ridiculous run-on statements preceded by the number sign began to show up on my news feed. To me, it made no sense. On Facebook, these tags mean nothing.
But as I branched out into other forms of social media, I finally discovered their value. These ridiculous looking phrases are actually quite efficient and effective ways of post-coordinate indexing, which quickly organize unlimited amounts of data into relevant categories. So my pictures on Instagram tagged #halloweeniscoming are sorted with other pictures sporting the same label; the curious Instagrammer can now find these and other posts through searching this hashtag. So now that I’ve encountered #hashtags in their natural environment, I can appreciated them for their important role in data organization.
With Pinterest, Flickr, and Instagram following Twitter (that I know of) in the #revolution, one has to ask: is Facebook next? According to The Wall Street Journal and Small Business Trends, they just might. And I for one am in full support of this change. It’s just another step in fully integrating the digital experience, and allows users with like interests to make vital connections easier than ever before. Take yesterday’s movement for marriage equality that dominated many a Facebook news feed. While visually, many people shared their support by changing profile pictures and cover photos to a red equal sign, hashtags could have connected them on a more concrete level, linking all posts from across the world and bringing them into one united group.