I'm doing a presentation on the culture of social media today and have been doing some reflecting on the concept of hashtags.
What started off as a way to flag content has become something more - it's become a form of social syntax.
We use hashtags to convey mood, connect with prevailing trends, etc. We want our content to have the broadest reach possible, so there's been a trend in using lots of tags to end up in as many streams as possible.
As a result, though, something else is happening.
A friend recently pointed out that #TooManyHashtags comes across as juvenile - the kind of in-your-face communication that youth still developing vocabulary and theory of mind use to make sure they're not missing the mark.
Thing about social media is that it skews too far in the other direction - at 140 characters, there's not a lot of space to convey nuance or tone, which is essential in understanding intent.
Words without body language is like food without smell - the full experience isn't conveyed.
When we have in-person conversations, there are tone, facial expressions, body posture, context - all lost in social media. To a degree, hashtags as emoticons (as well as emoticons themselves) help round out our digital comms.
Which suggests an interesting point - in trying to build out our brand, are we organically creating more nuanced digital syntax collaboratively?