When the word “hashtag” is mentioned, we are quick to associate it with a practice on social networks, rather than its original intention as a symbol in information technology. The practice of hashtagging originated in 2009 on the worldwide social network, Twitter, as a means of categorizing users’ “tweets” under their appropriate topics. Since then, the hashtag culture has swiftly developed and engulfed Generation Y in its ever so popular convention.
Though, like many things, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
Last month, 16-year old Jada was allegedly raped at a party after consuming a spiked alcoholic beverage and passing out. Because of her complete unconsciousness, she only just discovered that she had been raped the morning after by means of a trending Twitter hashtag, “#jadapose”.
Apparently, those who initiated the sexual assault snapped a picture and distributed to other party attendees, and the photo inevitably found its way into social media. Twitter users used the hashtag “#jadapose” to mock the photo of Jada unconscious. The hashtag quickly became a trending topic, and even users who had no connection with Jada or the party attendees were engaging in the disgusting entertainment.
It’s no wonder why the word “media” is one of infamy. In Understanding Media: A Popular Philosophy, Dominic Boyer reminds us that the linguistic gloss called “the media” is more often noted for its failures than successes. Boyer states, “To confirm this suspicion, I used a remarkable media instrument, Google.com, to search instances of the phrase ‘the problem with the media…’ on the internet. I received 13,500 hits. Meanwhile, variations on the phrase, ‘the good thing about the media…’ received no more than 35 hits” (4).
When Twitter staff learned of this hashtag and its crude photos, they immediately took all photos down. Though Twitter may have attempted to banish all traces of this ignorant hashtag practice, it’s important to remember the vulgarity that lives within the World Wide Web.
Check out a more uplifting hashtag use here.
I think this is a great (but sad) example of how media and technology enable us to connect with like-minded people and form groups in ways that may not have been possible before. This can obviously have positive or negative repercussions. What are some other social effects of twitter/hashtags? How have they affected our consumption of information? What do you think McLuhan would have said about twitter/hashtags?
I think it’s interesting how a single social media practice can manipulate our lifestyles. Being an avid Instagram user, I find that many other users use hashtags in order to receive more views or likes on their picture. Hashtag use has made people hungry for attention within the social network. The motive of posting an Instagram picture has shifted to a more egotistical one. Some users even post 20+ hashtags on their photos, clearly depicting their competitive nature for likes. Most hashtagging is done through smart phones. Marshall McLuhan would agree that the medium of the phone is a huge factor in this practice. Hashtagging through a laptop or desktop wouldn’t provide the same sensation or experience one would get through a smart phone.