An awesome, very net savvy friend on Facebook posted the following, regarding the new #hashtag feature that was just added to that social network:
“Scared about what this means for sentence structure….. Watch as I translate a regular sentence into hashtags: “I saw the most beautiful bird on my walk today through stanley park” TRANSLATED “I love birds! #beautiful #walk #StanleyPark #birds #nature”
Is the popularity of hashtags a sign of the “dumbing down” of language and culture, leading to the further alienation of the younger generations from the older, not-so-net-savvy ones?
Or are hashtags just an efficient and fluid way to create discussion around topics, and convey meaning in fewer numbers of characters?
Here’s my take on it:
I’m not sure why we should be so concerned about changes in the way we communicate. Languages including English are always evolving. Hashtags are just keywords and they are effective in conveying meaning in a short number of characters.
However the generation gap is concerning to me. If young people are unable to communicate with older people, they may miss out on important opportunities, since their elders are probably the ones who can offer the younger people jobs.
T, a friend of a friend on Facebook commented, “But [hashtags are] an advantage for people who already have the ability and skill of expression.” She also comments that it is essential that children “develop the skill to elaborate upon their thoughts and ideas.”
I agree that it’s a huge problem that many people (including young people) do not have the ability to write effectively. Writing well opens so many doors, including new relationships, job opportunities, teamwork, as well as artistic expression. However I don’t see how adding the keywording /hashtags feature to facebook contributes to this problem.
The main reason I think Facebook added hashtags is to more effectively target advertisements to these keywords as well as open up loose topic-based interactions rather than friend-based or group-based discussions. Try clicking on a #hashtag and you’ll see that a place for discussion among strangers opens up.
-Geoff Peters, June 15th 2013, Vancouver Canada