by Henry Furman
Once only an indicator of numeric positioning, this character has become responsible for political organization, breaking news distribution and a new genre of comedy. Now a fixture of international culture, its power is undeniably vast. Let’s take a look at how the hashtag is infiltrating every facet of our technological society.
Let’s see…trending right now in the States: #DancingWithTheStars, #WhyYouAtTheClub and #CNNDebate. In Germany, it’s #Terminator2 Malaysia, it’s #LeonaLewis. Regardless of the nonsensical nature of many hastags, we can see a variety of cultural, political, humorous and informative tweets at moment’s notice.
Photo Credit: Reuters
America’s most obvious Twitter phenomenon has been Occupy Wall Street and other “human hashtags” organized via Twitter. What makes the hashtag so attractive to innovators and leaders is the buzz it creates at an unbeatable price. If the hashtag is fortunate enough to join the elusive group of Trending Topics, it’s advertising gold. In The Occupy Movement’s case, Twitter was crucial in assembling massive groups and spreading their doctrine. #OccupyWallStreet hashtags didn’t start reveal themselves with any frequency until September 16th, but within 24 hours 1 in every 500 hashtags worldwide was #OWS.
Occupy movements spread around the country and eventually the globe. Participants faced various forms of adversity, from sanitary issues to police brutality. But by early November, law enforcement was fed up and city parks looked more like landfills. However Occupy had a bigger problem. Vast investment in social media encouraged so much participation that lack of organization was rampant in most settlements. Occupiers all agreed that the current economic system was corrupt, but their political diversity - something that they initially prided themselves on - made a central dogma difficult to establish.
Photo Credit: Shelly Palmer
Naturally, the forward-thinking Occupiers took to their blogs and Twitter accounts to articulate their opinions and document their experience among their fellow 99%ers. Many followers were keen to notice that Occupy-related posts lacked congruity and viewpoints often clashed. What became clear was that social media, the entity that empowered Occupy to be able to assemble, eventually led to its decline. A campaign without a clear mission will not be taken seriously nor will it achieve success, and Occupy became precisely such a campaign.
Yet the Occupy movement isn’t going anywhere. Thanks, yet again, to social media, those who eventually left their tents for cozy, insulated apartments returned to Twitter and Wordpress to give their thoughts on how Occupy could improve. They will continue to do so, for at least the next five years. This, in part, will be attributed to the #OWS hashtag.
Photo Credit: Christopher Lazo
So, what is the power of a hashtag? Well, it’s really a double-edged sword. In today’s society, it is vital for any collective thought to have progress, but lack of control eventually leads to confusion and disarray within the group. It remains a challenge, a risky endeavor. For those confident in their ability to harness its power, it can be a revolutionary device. But in today’s technological landscape, open doors cause blind participation and can cause destruction on a large scale. Your move, #IfOprahWerePresident.
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