Human communication has evolved over time with technological advancement. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) dominates the majority of how we connect with others. Most people now own computers, laptops, smartphones and for some, even tablets. These electronic gadgets are important tools for people to stay in touch with the world and increasingly, through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp. Each social media platform has its own language system that influences how people perceive the way information is shared and organized. In this segment, we will be looking at one example – hashtag.
This new word ‘hashtag’ is formed by compounding. The meaning of ‘hashtag’ can be derived from its parts. ‘Hash’ refers to the hash sign represented by the symbol (#) while ‘tag’ is defined as a name or phrase that is used to describe a person or thing in some way. A hashtag always starts with the hash sign followed by a word or a string of words that are written without spacing.
It is also common to see features of ‘netspeak’ when people use acronyms, blended words or clipped words as hashtags.
#ootd (Outfit Of The Day)
#instafood (Instagram -> insta)
This is the first hashtag created in the world, by Christ Messina, the developer of Twitter.
Hashtags are used on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook now. The social media platforms were designed to create a hyperlink whenever the hash sign is used. This allowed people to group related information regardless of their online relationships. Users can also use hashtags to search for information. For example, if I want to search for information on the General Election in Singapore, or to follow news on it, I could search by typing in the hashtag #GE2015 and the online posts that people shared with this hashtag would be conjured up.
Through this example of the use of hashtags, we can see that language, coupled with technology, has changed the perception of how information can be organized and how through hashtags, people can contribute and retrieve information from people whom they do not have a personal relationship with online. People’s online posts used to be presented in isolation but through hashtags, they are now linked up.