On July 16th, 2007, I joined Facebook. On June 12, 2013, hashtags were added. My reaction?
Hashtags on Facebook are one of my major social media pet peeves. When hashtags were added as an additional feature, my News Feed was flooded with tags ranging from #awesome to #whyisfacebookcopyingtwitter. Needless to say, the response was mixed, and I stared in shock at the influx of #cute #ootd #cool words that were completely unnecessary to posts.
Facebook’s “hashtag concept” is essentially the same as Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and so forth. An FB user is able to add a “#” symbol in front of key phrases, words, etc. on any type of post, allowing the user to “help people more easily discover what others are saying about a specific topic and participate in public conversations”
(Screenshot provided by author from http://facebook.com)
I’m not going to lie. I use hashtags sparingly on the social media sites I listed above. While it seemed as if all of my friends were embracing Facebook hashtags, I secretly wished that my most favorite social networking site would obliterate all “#” symbols on my friends’ photos and statuses. After all, how could Facebook, the trailblazer for social media, succumb to its successors?
All this time, we were meant to believe that Facebook’s rapid-changing security policies would keep our information safe & secure. We were advised to adjust our privacy settings as needed, and only friend those that we actually knew. Facebook was supposed to be a place to keep in touch with friends without having to worry too much about random people sifting through our information. In the article, “Why do we Hate Facebook Hashtags?” Molly McHugh makes the argument that people like me are “simply not interested in directly communicating with brands on Facebook like we do on Twitter – or in talking to real people like we talk to brands.” To me, hashtags are a way to actually keep tabs on a specific brand, company, or idea. A popular use of hashtags on Twitter are “Trending topics”, which can range from promotions from Chipotle (ie: #Adventurrito) to a discussion about local politics (ie: #Stringer2013).
If hashtags are used accordingly, I think it is a great way for companies to advertise a product and simplify the process of going through similar posts. However, Facebook shouldn’t be a place for these things, since it would simply complicate the process of going through general posts from the friends that actually matter. In fact, a recent study showed that promotional hashtags on Facebook lowers the Viral Reach on a Promoted post. Take that, companies!
As Ellison & Boyd pointed out, “The first SNS profiles were primarily designed to be relatively static portraits, explicitly constructed through text and other media provided by the profile owner” (3). Now, our profiles (specifically Facebook) show much more than that, such as tagged photos, shared articles, and the occasional Candy Crush request from the friend stuck on level 60. When people & companies add hashtags to such posts, the Facebooking experience is turned into a museum display, allowing people that aren’t even your friends to view your posts. Thus, we have lost the “static portraits” that kept FB different from Twitter.
Is Facebook doomed? I sure hope not. While hashtags are becoming more popular on Facebook, all of its other features are perfectly fine. As long as my friends do not use them to excess, I can quickly scroll past their posts without groaning. As for companies, I’d recommend for them to stick to other social networking sites such as Twitter & Instagram, where promotional tags can be completely visible to an extremely broad audience without posing any problems.
If I could describe the change from when I first joined Facebook in 2007 to what it is today, I’d call it insane, simply because of how fast social media in general shifted from personal interactions to PDH: Public Display of Hashtags. We are now in a digitalized society where things are publicized in real time, which can be beneficial for some, and detrimental for others. My strongest recommendation for avid hashtaggers is to leave it off Facebook- not for my sake, but for the internet community’s.