Once upon a time, the hashtag was merely a pound sign. Ten years ago today that all changed. First used on Twitter to group like subjects, it’s graduated no to every form of social media, and even into art and other home products to help you represent your tribe. Whether you’re #MomLife or #SquadGoals, there’s a hashtag out there for you. And beyond finding other fun posts that you can relate to, there are endless ways that hashtags have improved our lives in the last decade. Here are some highlights.
Hashtags and Activism: #YesAllWomen. #BlackLivesMatter. #OccupyWallstreet. The social justice battle cries of the last ten years have all been Tweeted out alongside hashtags that helped gather activists under one virtual flag. Sometimes they spread awareness: sometimes, they’re a call to action. The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, for example, kept awareness alive of the Boko Haram kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria in 2014. Retweeted more than six million times, this hashtag originated with then-First Lady Michelle Obama and was echoed around the world. Numerous celebrities jumped on board, from Malala Yousafzai to Sylvester Stallone. Beyoncé even adopted the phrase BRINGBACK, working into a text-to-donate campaign that supported the global CHIME FOR CHANGE foundation. While the kidnappings couldn’t be undone overnight, many girls have been released, and the impact of the hashtag campaign on the worldwide pressure that led to these releases can’t be measured.
Hashtags and Events: Hashtags are such a part of our lives now that they’ve even become an essential part of big life events. From #ClassOf2017 to individual wedding hashtags, they’re the perfect way to personalize and promote events. You don’t even have to be invited to the wedding to find the hashtag and enjoy the photos from guests, all brought together under the mantle of one comedic hashtag. It’s a great way to gather images from various sources, or just to share information or jokes about an upcoming event — we’ll never forget the day that #FyreFestival was trending, for example.
Hashtags and Humor: Hashtags allow people to join a global conversation as it’s happening, whether they’re mobilizing a grassroots organization or simply joining in on a joke. Twitter often has trending hashtags, with everything from #GeekPickUpLines to #CuteAt6ButNotAt26, which allow people tojoin in on the joke. The Tonight Show even has a segment called “Tonight Show Hashtags,” which creates topics like #WorstFirstDate and #MisheardLyrics to help viewers share their stories. The comedy game show @midnight features a game called “Hashtag Wars,” in which three comedians riff on one chosen hashtag theme. And these are only the primetime shows — online, hashtags create comedy every day.
Hashtags and You: Just as hashtags have brought groups together, they’ve also inspired art across multiple medias. Check out our hashtag-inspired gear and explore the world of new artists online with hashtags like #ArtWatchers, #ArtSelfie, #StreetArt, or #PartsOfPaintings.