Something I find funny is how the internet throws out words and terms where the assumption is made that everyone is supposed to magically know exactly what the word/term means and how it’s applied.
“Hashtag” is something which is a combination of two words, hash and tag. The hash part represents the octothorpe (#) which most people known as the “tic-tac-toe” symbol, and tag is technically described as “metadata”. In plain English, that means “a word or term representing a topic of interest”.
Tag is understood easily, but hash prefix isn’t. The hash is simply an indentifier so you can separate what it is compared to the rest of the message.
Example: Taking my car in for an oil change today #cars
The above message says that later on in the day, you’re taking your car in for an oil change, and ends with the topic of interest being cars.
Obviously, the above example sentence is from a grammatical point of view grossly incorrect; it’s started wrong, missing puncuation at the tail and of course the hashtag is just the icing on the crap cake. But in the internet world it makes total sense.
Hashtags have “evolved” to the point of being auto-linked when used on certain web sites. For example, on Twitter, any hashtag you use is auto-linked to others who have used the same hashtag. And if enough people all use the same hashtag, that’s considered a “trending topic”.
Are hashtags mainly a social-media-only thing?
For the most part, yes. And at times the use of hashtags is quite annoying. Right now there’s a “hashtag battle” going on between US Presidential candidates on Twitter. Stupid? Yes. But then again, one cannot use the internet without running into a good dose of stupid every so often, and that’s just the way it is.
At least you now know what a hashtag is and how it’s applied.