Beyond the medium: the secret life of hashtags

Let’s cut to the chase: what is philosophy? Just kidding, I know you clicked and I gotta start with a thank you note. I’ll always appreciate readers with a creative list of insults. We use energy to access the internet, someone pays the bill, and that pretty much sums everything up. Except, of course, if you just assumed I’ve never paid a single bill in my whole life, or that I don’t know what the internet really is. So let’s have a conversation here, about space and time, full scholar mode.

First off, when we think about the internet as a space, we’re being selfish little pieces of turd. Outside your view, there’s an address, a physical one, not just a domain. Room, number, street, neighborhood, city, state, country. Take a deep breath and visualize. No, not the people who run it, just the space, each of them. That takes a while, I know. Maybe close your eyes, that’s completely up to you. I promise. Normally, that’s how it goes, unless your condominium is named after a nation. Which is pretty usual: buildings are named after the most creative things, from monuments to plants. When we think about these spaces, we associate them with their names and what they represent. I could go on and say all words are named after association strategies, with an organization known as the alphabet, but not necessarily. I happen to like linguistics. Sorry, you were expecting a mind healing span experience. Where were we? Oh yeah, country: Brazil. If you didn’t get lost in the overlapping of spacial references and disputes over relevance in events that might be taking place in minor regions of condensed population versus maybe an office in some building close to the subway station in the big city, and not a forest, a farm, a beach or a road, then you’ll realize the reality check that follows is actually important to take into account, more than the fact that you have to put your underwear in the washing machine right now. Well, if I got the right audience, which is probably not going to be the case, hence why I anticipate insults, secretly hoping it never goes beyond that.

Here we go: as of 2018, over a third of the Brazilian population didn’t use the internet, according to research (source: Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). That’s almost 30 million homes without access – 50 million people, or twice the population of Australia. You really wanna think that all these people have more immediate consumer needs, with layers of concerns in terms of their household spending and maintenance. Electricity, water, food. One level up, and you’re covering personal care, clothing, comfort. Then you got furniture, things that need fixing and organizing, devices. Cool, you have a home. Does that make you happy? It should, if only you had other things to do. I may be wrong and I know the number of subcategories I’ll skip to make the assumption more provoking in the following paragraphs is insane, but I think that’s where the hashtag comes in – unless you work with this, and you’ll either think I’m loaded on BS or you’ll be appalled by my lazy reporting.

Hashtags would never work if the sense of collectiveness wasn’t inherently associated with it. Forget about people in small businesses, franchisees and big corporations for a bit, think leisure and a little bit of social anxiety or growing desperation. Maybe ignore the fact that these are converging areas, with social media fostering conversations between divergent classes and politically antagonist groups. Ideally, people would see hashtags as an opportunity to start a conversation or state an intention to be part of it, with people connecting through search, talking points increasing in complexity, interest and repertoire also growing and a map of the public conversation being maintained for the web as a whole, powered by the intelligence of communities and various organizations, marked by cooperation, understanding and acceptance. Isn’t that, like, Twitter’s mission? Wrong. Hashtags are used today to have strangers say inappropriate things to you. But make no mistake: the stranger you know is better than the one you don’t. It’s not just a creep problem: we have mass digital propaganda successfully invading our privacy at its core (I hate to bring it up, but really, what’s on my mind?) and politics competing for interest with different sorts of games, which don’t necessarily have to follow the space awareness exercise we just did – noting that it isn’t always obvious how “thinking big” is not exactly “thinking with”, and unfortunately that makes some of the current leadership references more a case for blind empathy than a case for social responsibility. But moderate guy here says there’s good and bad in it.

First, we know the amount of people creating profiles because they have literally nothing better to do with their lives other than damaging social networks in their credibility is just astounding. But not necessarily do they have any intention to do so. I’ve talked about it before, and I don’t want to repeat myself saying porn has the worst advertising tactics, observing that this is just an obvious side to the discussion, but I’ll point out the fact that this should be investigated more thoroughly and revealed to the general public, and though I’m definitely not talking about the 14 year old who posts eggplants on Instagram, I wonder why it doesn’t seem to be clear. Porn on Twitter has a lot of low quality (stolen) videos, NSFW images with dubious procedence, people creating Snapchat users and bitlys in order to retrieve your personal information, which most of us have suspected all along, but we don’t really do anything about it, among many other instances of unabridged content, including niches like Omegle and Faceflow, but heavily populated zones, like Reddit. I hope that’s a fair assessment, but I’ll apologize if it reveals nothing more than a personal view. On Pornhub, the definitive go-to space for sexual release (come on, when are we less collective?), the same thing happens: perform an advanced search to see how many profiles, with or without profile pictures, are created every day and click through them, if you’re patient enough and have your VPN working. Or not, who cares? We’ve all heard about the depths of the internet, but we’re mostly either too tired to try and find out what’s hidden and what’s not or we’re just stubborn as hell. And let’s be honest: in life, not just the internet, superficial knowledge makes people happy, whereas comprehensive scrutiny requires sleeping pills in the aftermath of a grand conclusion. Back to the site, if moderation wasn’t there, you’d see just about how many people are trying to scam others in real time, but we have to ask the difficult questions: more than who goes on Pornhub, understanding and accepting that the qualitative analysis is associated to third parties, don’t you wonder who moderates it? We don’t know, and we’ll go as far as thinking that someone is smart enough not to tell people they freaking hate the job. My personal experience tells me that 10-15 real people sign up to post videos everyday, and if you think about a worldwide porn feed, that doesn’t really sound accurate. So, no, we won’t be seeing hashtag horny go mainstream, because of reasons – which I’d like you to think about. However, we have a lot of other hashtags going on, and one of them is hashtag me.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone that, but hashtag me on Instagram, in my judgment, ranks so high that it’s honestly gross. Why? Well, let’s go back a little. When you create a hashtag, you have a sense of collectiveness in mind. You want to be part of a broader conversation, offering insights and contributing to the important discussions we need to have as a society. Ideally. Look at how popular hashtag dank memes is. Nothing wrong with that, creators can be witty as hell. Now, what’s the most popular hashtag of all? Turns out it’s nothing in the lines of trending topics: you have love, beautiful and cute ranking at the top. Let’s stay positive, but why does the most annoying girl at school have 4K followers? Regardless of the hidden criticism in this oddly realistic little joke, I would have to agree that maybe whenever I post, I should just throw in some stuff like hashtag science, because I’ve performed an immense amount of tests in this field, the field of discourse and public perception, which you can tell from seeing my tweet numbers and my bank account. I don’t want to be one of those people who criticize exposure per se, but nobody said anything about exposure here: I’m talking about the systematic use of advertising tools to propel personal narratives which are absolutely meaningless 50% of the time. Because… I try to be reasonable, sometimes. In other words, the obvious argument is: if hashtags are collective, why did you just make it about yourself? Sorry if you don’t like the figures.

I come off as a bitter internet user. I’m aware. I’m here to say that I am, really. When you realize nobody’s out there to connect the world, especially when all the people you’ve ever met somehow agreed it was better to disconnect, then inevitably you become bitter. But since that’s apparently a very serious endeavor, you just have to assume you met all the wrong people, who might have advertised their stuff first, in one possible reading, without forgetting about the constant narrative dispute we face throughout life interactions. You search according to your needs, and we’re not having the conversation that shows what poor people search for in comparison to rich people; we’ve never got to this part of the graph, we, the ordinary people with absolutely no idea of what’s really happening unless our interests can be efficiently and safely connected. And so, what happens, when space and time, your personal space and your mismanaged time, seem to clash with the beautiful mess of an uberly connected digital landscape? We’re stuck in the condominium at best, not to mention the prison of our bedrooms, or worse, our minds. We need escape. We need clean, but we definitely need dirty, just without risking identity theft. And if you don’t want Google, you’ll search for hashtags. So here’s a list of what I’d be interested in searching for: poetry, photography, dogs, inspiration, leadership, stats, musicians, art, language, philosophy, creators, education, technology, curation, reviews, positivity. Unless I get hashtag bored.

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