Hash: a cure for writer’s block
No, not that hash.
I’m talking about hashtags.
I used to hate hashtags. More accurately, I hated how a lot of people used them.
I thought they should only be used to tag topics of interest, which was their original function on Twitter, the site that made them popular.
As in: ‘Stubborn Love is my favourite #Lumineers song.’
Twitter automatically turned a hashtag phrase into a hyperlink to search results for that phrase, which made for a tidy, useful system. If a tweet intrigued you and it contained a hashtag, you could click on it and quickly find all the other tweets on that topic.
But soon enough people started using them to just add free association nonsense to their tweets. And later, Facebook posts.
You know what I mean.
‘Going to see the #Lumineers tonight! #SoExcited #CantWait #GuitarsAndFedorasTogetherForever #LoveMyLife #DontHate #Blessed’
Why’d I hate stuff like that? Mainly because it was unwieldy. Aesthetically unpleasant, like getting to your hotel room to find a sweeping view of a brick wall.
But it also annoyed me because I felt that people were using hashtags as cover to say things they wouldn’t ordinarily say. Like they knew the things they were writing were obtuse but they were shoving them in my face anyway.
But I’ve had an epiphany. This ‘liberal’ use of hashtags ain’t so bad after all.
See, while I want things to look nice, at the same time I also wish people were less afraid of writing. Less reticent about expressing themselves.
And if my social network is at all a realistic sample, there’s no question that hashtags let people who ordinarily don’t say or write much of anything in public show another side of themselves. On balance, I have to say that’s a good thing.
It also got me thinking. If hashtags let people say things they wouldn’t normally say, and if they let people who wouldn’t usually say anything say something, then they might be a great cure for writer’s block.
I’m not suggesting that when you have writer’s block you get on Facebook and fill your status update with random thoughts.
But I am suggesting you pretend you are. Think about what hashtag phrases you’d use for your topic, and I bet you’ll free your mind up to produce words you wouldn’t ordinarily come up with.
So if I were coming up with a theme for this post, I might think about: