I must admit, I use them ironically. I use them with such intense and mounting frequency on a Monday-to-Saturday basis that I wonder at what point my already onion-skin flimsy ‘irony’ defense will stop pulling through for me.
But, somewhere in the middle of the myriad flashing newscreens with #KashmirFloods or #NepalQuake flying about, I realised how the constant appearance of this tiny little ‘formerly known as the number sign’ sign was degrading the very crisis it so wished to draw attention to. In order to create a cult of social uprising, it had summed up the sudden upheaval of thousands of playgrounds, living rooms, bus stops and kids eating their lunches in a succinct little hashtag meant to garner heaps and heaps of…well, something.
People are banding together righteously with sanitizer-pure intentions, raising their fingers both in blame (Indian media, Nepali government, basically anyone since we can’t quite be yelling at tectonic plates in all our sanity) and in Tweets of allegiance—to help, to fix, to restore normalcy…
While Tweeters and Facebookers galore chirrup away with their #HashtagsOfHope, the sufferers continue to suffer, submerged in waist-deep water, or scrambling for any semblance of a meal because the umpteen donations of 200,000 kgs of rice and dal have been stuck at customs for an eternity. I reach a point of detachment when words begin to sprinkle across my feed in a shade I have dubbed ‘Facebook-Blue’ with spirited words of optimism that ring well-meaning, but too hollow not to take lightly.
Sometime, the ludicrousness of the whole situation strikes me when, in cases like the media filming the farmer’s suicide that happened last month, I see a post that says. “Media is sick. Can’t believe they would do this. All my support to the farmer’s family. Justice will prevail #Hanginthere.”
Normally, my personal prejudice always adds extra IQ points to anyone that chooses to speak sans text-lingo on social media, but in this case I’ll have to whittle it down to a deduction regardless. On a sick, detached level, the irony amuses me, but for the most part, this post depresses me deeply.
This hashtag fixation bothers me on the double when it’s used in times of crises, but it’s as irksome on the day-to-day as well. People are never deterred from the delicious prospect of throwing a hashtag out into the universe—anything from a personal injury to a breakfast item is subject to the hashtaggian tyranny of (as one hilarious Channel V venture dubbed us) the ‘Yo’ generation.
I yearn for the point in time where the contruction of a sentence was possible without this desire to pander to your own ego by padding it with likes. When you could say ‘It’s been a great day at the beach!” without it essentially becoming “#sun #sand #beachlove #bestholidayever #can’teverydaybelikethis #palmtree #newbikini #beachbodyready #lovinmylife”.
Perhaps my collective of friends is right. Perhaps I am an old soul, best left to stew in outrage at those ‘darned kids with smartphones and Twittery jibber jabber’, but I’d rather be outdated with a clunky Nokia and no Instagram account (gasp! Sputter! OMG!) than a 40-something who looks back at her 24-year old self and wonders what on earth she was thinking when she hashtagged the bejeezy out of every natural calamity and/or piece of office stationary. I’d prefer to have #NoRegrets.