A Study of Hashtags



Are Hashtags Actually Useful?

Citizen Journalism Before and After Social Media: 

Before this assignment, I had never heard the term “citizen journalism.” Before I was able to research anything, I needed to make sure that I understood what this term means. After reading an article on ThoughtCo.com, called Citizen Journalism, citizen journalism consists of tasks that “professional reporters” are in charge of, but instead, “private individuals” do this. These individuals report information that is released in forms such as podcasts, text, pictures, videos, and audio. The main reason and goal of citizen journalism is communication. This content is almost always found online. Due to media such as podcasts, videos, articles, and pictures, citizen journalism is possible. Citizen journalism gives people who are not actual journalists the chance to share information across the entire world. This article also explains some different types of citizen journalism. The first is “Semi-Independent Citizen Journalism.” This type includes the posts and comments that people leave on an article or story that is published online. This article calls this kind of action “a 21st-century version of the letter to the editor” (ThoughtCo). Another part of this type of citizen journalism includes the ability for readers to add their own content and information to articles that have been written by professionals. If a writer leaves out a key piece of information, a reader is able to add what they want in. A third part is the way in which readers want to work with professional reporters to get their own story out there. Sometimes, the professionals will include the reader’s information in their final story. The last part of this is that posts and blogs that readers create are integrated into professional websites. Some of these blogs and posts are critiques on the organization they wrote about. The second type of citizen journalism is “Independent Citizen Journalism.” This type incorporates different citizen journalists who work in ways that are untraditional and not associated with professional news organizations. These people create their own websites that are run by the individual or a group of people. These websites are usually used for communicating to the person’s and/or group’s local community.

Citizen journalism has definitely changed over the years. For example, the newspaper industry has almost completely disappeared due to everything being online. My parents cancelled our newspaper subscription because the newspapers used to just pile up in a corner without being opened. According to an article on Huffington Post, “the prevalence of mobile devices that can record pictures, video, and have constant internet connections, combined with the popularity of social networking sites has actually made it possible for people to produce and share news themselves” (Huffington Post). Due to phones, tablets, laptops, etc. the news is at everyone’s fingertips. It is accessible 24/7. People are now looking to each other (sometimes also known as citizen journalists) to find out information. Social media encourages citizen journalism and digital journalism by providing ways to share videos, articles, stories, pictures, news, etc. with one another with just a click of a button. People now have a strong urge to share their stories due to the rise of social media and access they have to devices such as their cell phones. Before citizen journalism, people paid attention to the news on television every morning and night. They also relied on their newspapers, and some people still do.  I have a neighbor that I sometimes house-sit for, and they still get newspapers delivered. They are one of the few people in my neighborhood that still want to read the newspaper.

Commentary and Critiques About Current Campaigns:

One campaign that came to mind is the campaign for #SaveTheInternet. Many people are worried that the FCC will place new laws over access to the internet. Many are taking action and stating things on Twitter such as “#NetNeutrality is non-negotiable.” Two people, Rhett and Link, have a show on YouTube called Good Mythical Morning. They have tried to take action in this campaign. They have encouraged their fans to sign the petition to save the internet.


There was a protest in Washington D.C., and many people have been in favor of trying to stop the FCC. Some others are not interested.


Examples of Successful and Important Hashtags:

The first hashtag that I want to talk about is the Always’ #LikeAGirl that first started in 2014. One commercial that came from this hashtag was where the director had different actors and actresses come out to the stage and do actions such as running, throwing, and fighting. In the beginning, all of the actors were in their teens or adults. They performed these actions to try and fit the stereotype of what it means to do something “like a girl.” Next, they brought out younger girls and they were asked to do the same things. They had no sense of this stereotype, and ran, threw, and fought just like anyone else would. They were then asked what it meant to “run like a girl.” Another boy was asked if he thought that he had just insulted his sister because of the way he was acting. Women around the world responded, and the campaign and hashtag went viral. After researching on Always’ website, I found out that the company has a mission to give girls more confidence while letting girls know it is okay to fail. One of their statistics is that “At puberty, 50% of girls feel paralyzed by the fear of failure” (Always). After researching the use of this hashtag, I found out that #LikeAGirl has been used, read, and shared 104.6 million times. About 69.2% of this number are female. About 30.2% are male. #LikeAGirl has the highest amount of reach in the United States at 71.8%. Also, this hashtag has been shared 56.3% on Twitter and 42.9% on Instagram.

These statistics came from: https://www.talkwalker.com/app/page#/search#g=SEARCH&t=RESULTS&m=TOPICS_CATEGORY&i=e2e814a9-bcdc-45eb-9883-93e2d1c10cd3&tz=America%2FNew_York&co=project&cid=5987d45b-d582-49e1-b2f5-8a7a6035c8ce

Here is a link to the Always’ commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs&feature=youtu.be


Demi Lovato’s Twitter

One hashtag that was probably one of the most viral was #IceBucketChallenge. I dreaded the day that I would have to dump ice over my head. This campaign not only got people to dump ice on their heads, it also got people to donate and raise awareness for ALS. We all remember our social media feeds being filled with videos of people taking on the challenge. more than 17 million people participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Many of these people were famous celebrities we all know and love. The biggest accomplishment of this viral challenge is that $88.5 million were raised for ALS research. There were over 3,697,342 tweets, 70.78% of which were retweets. Some of the other hashtags used to support this campaign were #ALS, #StrikeOutALS, and #ALSIceBucketChallenge.

These stats came from: http://www.splashscore.com/8-social-media-stats-behind-the-ice-bucket-challenge/

Bill Gates taking the #IceBucketChallenge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS6ysDFTbLU

Why Do We Use Hashtags?

            According to Take Flyte, a hashtag is used “to draw attention, to organize, and to promote” (Take Flyte). Hashtags first originated on Twitter. Hashtags make it easier to access the information that we want to see, rather than having to scroll through hundreds of articles and other kinds of content to find one simple answer or post. Hashtags also allow for marketers to figure out who their audience is. While researching, people will use hashtags to make the search easier. If a company uses a specific hashtag, the amount of readers and followers will increase. Hashtags can also bring humor into our lives, as well as anger, depending on the situation. The hashtags #MyDumbInjury or #MyFamilyIsWeird were started by Jimmy Fallon on Twitter. He then chooses to read some responses on The Tonight Show. Not only does Fallon get a great laugh, but so do we!

The Tonight Show YouTube

The Tonight Show YouTube


What did I Build?

Through this culture module, I built an understanding of how much hashtags are really used. I also built a profile on a hashtag-tracking website called Talk Walker. This website is what I used to find out some statistics about where a hashtag has been seen and/or used, what gender has interacted with the hashtag the most, and what social media platforms the hashtag has been seen most. I am looking forward to researching more hashtags in the future as new hashtags are developed. I also built an appreciation for hashtags that I had never had before.

What did I Learn?

I learned how much hashtags can impact the world around me. I learned that hashtags can be used for the greater good. I have seen many hashtags such as #food, #funny, #imawesome, and #basic, however, I haven’t paid much attention to the hashtags that influence and encourage activism. From the first reading that was suggested, Tweets for Liberation: The Promise of Digital Popular Education, is about a sociology student and activist, Shay Akil McLean. The article explains the importance of #BlackLivesMatter. This movement has given a voice to black people across the world, not just in the United States. I remember many of the hashtags that I researched, however, I never realized how viral they became and were. I never knew that a few posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. could make such an impact. I think hashtags get a bad reputation and that they are seen as slang or unintelligent. However, after doing the readings and researching more about hashtags, I realized that the stereotypes of hashtags are somewhat true. However, hashtags can make an impact, such as possibly giving a voice to someone or a group of people, or saving a person’s life. I also enjoyed looking at the statistics of different hashtags. I couldn’t believe some of the numbers that I saw. I saw one hashtag that had reached about four billion interactions such as posting, retweeting/sharing, and viewing a post with the hashtag in it. Hashtags, in my opinion, can be abused in that they can be used as something to fill up the white-space on a post or to get someone’s post, picture, video, etc. seen by anyone and everyone. However, if hashtags are used for good and for promoting something, I see them as something very important and influential.

 Why does the project/my learning matter?

 I think that my project and learning matters because it can allow for others, such as my classmates, family, friends, and complete strangers, to learn about the impact that hashtags can have on other people and situations. I hope that my newfound knowledge can help people see hashtags as something more important than they seem. I will definitely be more aware of hashtag usage and how, why, when, and where people use them. I typically don’t use hashtags, however, after this research I think I will be more conscientious of what hashtags I use and if they are appropriate or if they could impact someone or something

As I said above, I think that I will pay more attention to what hashtags I use, and if I really need to use a hashtag where it really isn’t necessary. I think this can also help me create a more professional online presence. I would like to use this knowledge in the future, not only for personal use, but also for when I hopefully have a career in journalism or writing. If I write an article or story, I will use hashtags to make my piece more accessible and popular. Also, I hope that my writing will be able to influence others, and possibly bring a good kind of change. I want to give back and support ongoing campaigns that are important to me. I will remember to use some of the hashtags such as #LikeAGirl and others than can make a strong impact on myself and others.