This is a rant on something minor inspired by something major. Without getting too personal or political, I have a vested interest in the government shutdown, so I’m keeping a closer eye than usual on the news these days. Not that I don’t pay attention to world events at other times, but right now I’m checking multiple news sources multiple times a day. With all that’s going on, I find I have less patience for the little, annoying things.
This morning on CNN, the cover image on a video news clip included the phrase “#LetsTalk”.
Before I go any further, I should confess that I don’t use Twitter. My online presence is limited to a personal Facebook profile and this blog. OK, so I have a Pinterest account that I occasionally check out, too. But that’s it. I promise.
Maybe if I used Twitter I would understand the appeal of the hashtag. Maybe. I doubt it, though, since I still text with proper spelling and grammar. I’ve heard the history of the hashtag. I know the intended purpose (grouping Tweets by topics to make it easier to search those topics), but I sometimes wonder if the users of hashtags understand that purpose. When I see a hashtagged phrase like “gonnamurderyoutraffic,” I want to know if A), anyone else has ever used that same hashtag to make it a “topic” or “group,” and B), if anyone has ever searched that term to find other postings. Somehow, I doubt it. Instead, it seems like the symbol I know of as the number sign is just a magical excuse to not use the space bar or punctuation marks.
But OK, fine. For internet use, I can forgive a lot, because the internet is a weird place and that’s one of the reasons we love it so much.
However, now people have started saying the word hashtag before expressing an idea or opinion. A friend posted a story on Facebook about a conversation between her students in which both sides said the word “hashtag” before saying what they thought. Why would they do that? To group their spoken words by topic? So people could internet-search the phrases coming out of their mouths? I don’t get it!
Coming back to the CNN image of “#LetsTalk”, it embodies all the reasons the hashtag bothers me. The only possible excuse I can imagine is that it referenced an actual Tweet out there somewhere, but it wasn’t mentioned in the video or news article. Maybe one of my readers can clarify it for me.
Until then, I’m going to take the image at face value. It was a picture on a video cover, so the phrase wasn’t hyperlinked. There’s no discernible reason for placing the pound (or hash) symbol before those words. Then the English teacher in me starts grammar-checking. At least they used capital letters to distinguish between the words, which is more than many people do. That way I know they mean “Lets talk” and not “Let stalk”. However, since the image isn’t a true hyperlinked hashtag anyway, would it be so hard to add a space between the two words? Also, it should be “Let’s” with an apostrophe to make it a contraction of the words “Let us”. “Lets” without an apostrophe means “allows”. Unless that is what’s going on… Is someone allowing someone else to talk? Come on, CNN. A little clarity goes a long way.
Maybe this rant is me taking out other life-frustrations on the innocent hashtag – but I have found it annoying for years, so I don’t feel too bad about making it my scapegoat. I do feel better after getting that out of my system, so I’d like to end on a more lighthearted note. Justin and Jimmy make my point with more humor than I do, so enjoy the laugh. Just ignore the bleeped profanity at the end.
(Oh, and the day a student turns in a research paper with a hashtagged phrase in it, something bad is going to happen. I don’t know what.)