Can You Hear Me Now? Has the hashtag outlived its usefulness?

funny pictures of cats with captions

Lately there have been posts cropping up from veteran bloggers about blogger fatigue. This week, it continued in a way that brought to light some specific problems and solutions. On Tuesday of this week, Kait Nolan sent out a cry for mercy in her post Social Media Ennui in which she talks about how much the world of blogging and Twitter has changed for her since she started. It’s now harder for her and other veterans to find interesting posts and generally have a good chat on Twitter. Wednesday, Roni Loren followed up with The Life Cycle of a Blogger – Ten Stages in which she plots out in a humorous way the various stages bloggers pass through (I think I’m still at Stage 1) and helps to put things in perspective for old hats like her and complete n00bs, like me.

Today, Jami Gold brought her take to the discussion with The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane? and detailed how she was going to try to keep us n00bs in mind when tweeting, which I was thankful for. I had a long comment typed out on my phone to her post and the dang thing rebooted. Argh! I didn’t have a chance to recreate it before I got home, though. But, I got to thinking in the car about this week’s discussion and decided to write this post instead.

Kait commented on Roni and Jami’s posts about what was really at the heart of her post, and that is the misuse and overcrowding of hashtags she follows.

Since this whole world of blogging and Twitter is new to me, I didn’t know any different. Reading Kait’s post made me a tad envious of the good old days, when the writing community sounded pretty tight and supportive. I felt like the late comer to the cool party that’s now not so cool.

It got me to thinking, though, that hashtags are like real life parties. Some parties are intimate cocktail or dinner parties where great discussions take place and new friends are made. Where people can be heard. Others are the kind where the band is blaring in your ear and it’s so crowded you can’t move.

Both kinds of parties can be fun if you know in advance which it is. The intimate parties are perfect when you want to discuss the latest geo-political ramifications or deconstruct Star Wars from a feminist standpoint. But if you go there thinking it’s going to be a balls-to-the-wall-wooo!-another-shot-guys! kind of party, you’d be mighty disappointed.

funny pictures - Henry couldn't remember much about his birthday party, but from the taste in his mouth, he was sure he'd had a good time.

Likewise the big ones can be annoying as all get out if you’re not in the right mood, or you can join the fray and end up taping colored napkins to everyone’s butts and/or boobies.

Perhaps what Kait is bemoaning is that she and others like her have been enjoying a nice intimate cocktail party that has now devolved into THE hottest night club where everyone’s shouting to be heard above the pulsing beat. I know I’ve seen some great Twitter etiquette posted before that you should behave like you’re at a cocktail party (i.e. would you go up to someone at a party and just start self-promoting?) But maybe the problem is, it’s now no longer a cocktail party. We can post etiquette advice, but I think the nature of the party has changed. What might be the answer is not to look at social networking or blogging as being overcrowded but that the places you’ve enjoyed in the past have now become too crowded: certain hashtags.

Maybe instead of trying to weed through the crowd and trying to find the others who aren’t bumping and grinding, a new way to use Twitter needs to be found?

Or maybe creating more finite hashtags, and ditching the overcrowded ones, so that those who do want to hang in a more quiet setting can do so? I also have started using lists more, so that I curate who shows up in that stream. So instead of just anyone showing up with a lamp shade on their head and their latest book in hand, only the ones I want to see show up.

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on how we can let the crazy partiers get their groove on but have a quiet room off to the side? What new hashtags can we use? Maybe #querylettertips #vetwritingtips #newbiewritingtips #writerwatercooler?

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7 Comments

  1. Thanks for the link, Angela! I’m sorry your phone rebooted and lost your comment, but this is a great post too. :)

    As I mentioned on one of the posts in this conversation, I never much followed hashtags because I just don’t have time. And like most things in life, the “old days” were never as good as memory makes them out to be. :) In other words, I haven’t seen much change in Twitter over my 2+ years on it, so don’t feel like you’re coming late to the party.

    Kait is probably right that some hashtags are now solid links, while they used to be more conversational. But in many ways, Twitter is what you make of it. I’d love if we could get people to follow basic etiquette on Twitter, but those who most need the lessons are the ones who would never listen anyway, so I stick to my little happy place and ignore most of the bad behavior. :)

    Reply
  2. Hashtags have their place, but I think as long as you are sticking your neck out and building relationships people will respond well. People who self-promote all the time can be ignored and real friends can be made on lists or in the big rooms. You find a quiet niche in the big party and make real connections. I like your #writerwatercooler idea though :)

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  3. “deconstruct Star Wars from a feminist standpoint.” Ok that’s it. We MUST be friends.

    I think you’ve hit on a really important part of the issue–it HAS very much devolved from our happy little civilized cocktail party to something more resembling a frat house mosh pit–and those of us who’ve been around for a while are standing here going–wait…when did that happen?

    I’m with J.A. I dig the idea of a #writerwatercooler

    Reply
    • mind you, I don’t think I can actually deconstruct Star Wars that way, just thought it would be a cool conversation to be a part of :D As a newbie, how do you get a new hashtag used? Should we just start using it?

      Reply
  4. Thanks for the link love. I like you analogy of the cocktail party vs. huge nightclub. I still manage to have conversations pretty easily on twitter but that’s mostly because I use the List feature in tweetdeck. I follow a lot of people, but I put the ones I interact with a lot on my “buddies” list so they have their own column and I can easily pick out their tweets from the noise.

    I still keep an eye on my ALL column because there is always new people to meet, but a lot of it is filled with promo that my eyes just skip past.

    As for hashtags, the only one I follow is #myWANA. It is a lot of links, but it’s links I’m often interested in, so I’m fine with that.

    And you’re not late to the party. New parties are always starting up every day. :)

    Reply
    • Glad I’m not late :D I just finally got everyone I followed organized into lists! I need to get in the habit of using tweetdeck more…

      Reply

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