Observations by Lance Pauker

The hashtag, which started out as a twitter-centric device to spur interactive conversation around a common theme or topic, has transcended its original purpose and arguably become incorporated into GenY’s vernacular as a communicative meme. Although the hashtag has no functional use on Facebook, it’s now a popular way to underscore topics, moods, and general sentiments, in other words, enhance the value of the phrase or expression that lies within the #hashtag.

Some examples:

I can’t wait to lead the team to another victory next week as captain. #wednesdayblues

Well that sucked, but it’s over with! #LSAT

My theories:

-Since hashtags were originally used to rally around trending topics or events (i.e, #Cairo, #RIPMichaelJackson), the obscurity of certain hashtags juxtaposed with the functional purpose of them gives an illusion that something like #livetweetingpoliticaltheologyessay is an important, trending issue. They also add an element of humor and cultural relevancy that couldn’t be accomplished without the hashtag.

-Because twitter is not as widely used as Facebook, tweeting can still indicate that someone is progressive and an early adopter. Using the hashtag, a special feature of twitter, implies that you know the medium well, which further implies some sort of above average social media prowess. Following, a person who incorporates hashtags into conversation is a progressive person.

-They simply add color and personality to an otherwise boring sentence. A good example of this is the “oh, good thing i’m still on fall break! #questionable.” Intuitively, the hashtag simply makes the sentence come to life more.

Interestingly, hashtags have caught the eye of Google+, which has incorporated them into their UI so that it functions as it does on twitter http://mashable.com/2011/10/12/google-plus-real-time-search/

And, of course, the hashtag function on twitter is a great way to create awareness for brands. If brands start thinking of hashtags as a generational meme and tap into how we are using them, they could evolve to be valuable communicative tools that help create more intimate and engaging conversations.  But, by then, we Gen Yers will probably have also integrated something new.