Guest Post – The Hashtag Speaks

Please help me.  I am everywhere and I just want to be returned to where I belong.

Don’t turn away.  You know who I am.   You may have met me on your telephone pad.  Before you grew up and did a lot of conference calls, you probably had little use for me unless you were using me on paper as part of a tic tac toe game, and when you saw me on the dial pad you didn’t even call me by my proper name.  You called me the pound sign.  Like poundcake, but less tasty.  But ever since you figured out what to do when the automated, usually British female voice instructs you to put in your passcode and press the hash key, you started to take notice (well, at least after you figured out that I must be the one on the bottom right since pressing the “star” button didn’t work).

Then you started using me constructively.   By being placed in front of some words, I helped get people with common interests together and got traction going for new businesses and new campaigns (some of which actually helped people in need).  At first, it was pretty cool.  I even was better than the star key during the star 69 craze.  I got bitten by the fame bug.

But then something happened.

At first, I could handle it.  I had a pretty specific role.    If you weren’t on Twitter, you didn’t know much about me, but I had my purpose.  Things were OK.  Then, people started cautiously using me on Facebook and other social media.  People were respectful.  They looked at me but for the most part, if they weren’t educated in how to use me, they left me alone.

But now?  I am everywhere, and I don’t like it.  People are using me without asking.  They are misappropriating me to lead people to nowhereland.  It became both too big (#autumn) and too small (#myitalianvacationwithkate).   I am not sure which part of my unauthorized overtime I hate more.   I think the worst of it is when people use me to shamelessly self-promote or brag.  #newcar. #dreamvacation.  #savingtheworldincuteshoes.  I am an unwilling accomplice.  Please don’t think I want to be there – and please help me get out!

Other things confuse me about my users too.  Even if the statement is true and relatively unoffensive (#lovemyspouse…#applepicking), why do I have to be there?  I don’t think I am serving any real purpose.  Love your spouse?  I am happy to help you tell that to the world but why do you need me there?  Do your friends/followers really need to be led to a whole bunch of posts about people who love their spouses?  Probably not.  So, why??

I think that is my overall problem now.  People don’t need me in the vast majority of posts in which they use me.  I am not complaining about not being needed.   Sure, I liked the attention when people first started using me for an actual purpose, but now  I much rather would hang out at home than get dragged out and mistreated.

AHA – that’s it.  Maybe I can explain it to people using me against my will – be like me.  Enjoy some attention but know when enough is enough.  I know how tempting it is to go out there and talk about yourself and get noticed.  But too much of anything – including you – is not a good thing.  And I don’t want to be part of it.

It isn’t just modesty.  People who overuse me are killing my reputation.  People roll their eyes and groan when I am all over a post.   And the more people misuse me … well the more they use me in a post, to the point where you have no idea what they are posting about.   Then I get blamed.  I am sure you have scoffed more than once when you see a friend post along with ten of me – sometimes you may find yourself left with no idea of what the post was about, because overusing me messes with normal people’s reading comprehension.  Sometimes I am in every phrase of the post, or even worse, in several places and incorporated into what are supposed to be sentences.  Have you ever tried to decipher one of those posts?  Too much of me is a bad thing, too.

Even if the poster who overuses me doesn’t care about my reputation, I would expect him to care about his.  I know, part of the problem with some people who use me too much is that they care too much about their reputations – or at least themselves – and think people care more about every little up and down in their lives than really is the case.  I would tell them if I could.   Really.   I might say, “sorry, I have no choice but to tell you that including me in every post often makes you come across as far more obnoxious than you otherwise would (or even are!).  I know you can brag, gloat, or be sanctimonious without me, and maybe you should try that.  Even better, maybe try to brag and gloat less, and maybe even aim to be a bit less sanctimonious?” (Come on, you had to know I would have a little speech planned, for my fantasy where I get to call these people out for dragging me along on their social media misadventures.)

It is only fair to give a shout out to those who use me responsibly.  Sometimes I actually am a resource, or at least I help direct people to other posts that actually may interest or help them.  I also want to thank the people who never have used me rather than risk using me the wrong way and making me look silly.  Maybe the responsible users and refrainers are the people who can help me.   Are you one of them? I know it is hard to confront people about their bad habits, so you can share this letter from me and stay out of it.   The people who mistreat me may be inclined to mistreat anyone who questions what they are doing, even if you have their best interests at heart and want to help.

But most of all – and maybe this is a better angle from which to start a dialogue – I need to point out  that even if people aren’t egotisical or otherwise annoying their friends, many of them simply don’t know how to use me.  I wish I could tell them that inappropriate use of me makes people question their posts and affects people’s perceptions of their intelligence and judgment.  But I can’t…and instead I am forced to go out there over and over and withstand the scorn as I appear on far too many newsfeeds for no good reason.

Please, let me go back to how it was before.  Let me do the jobs I was supposed to do.  I know that means I still have to go to work on social media, but with your help maybe we can limit it to what I am qualified to do.  There already are too many people there who profess to be experts at things for which they are woefully unqualified, and so many of them use me in their misleading posts.   I don’t want to be a casualty of – or a symbol of (get it?) all that is wrong with social media.  I just want to do what I am supposed to do and then go hang out next to my buddy zero.

Please help me.   I won’t even use myself ironically in closing. Just help.