The different morphology of cyberspace allows to overcome, through the use of social tools, the space-time obstacles and to extend algorithmically its own circle of acquaintances and available information. This type of tools improve the social relationships, set out and speed up the communication between individuals who don’t know each other, spread texts, links and digital contents, amplify a concept, an idea, a personal opinion as well as a recent news or even the latest one.
The social tool, which performs this task in the most innovative way, is definitely the HASHTAG. This is a powerful relational aggregator active on many social networks, even though characterized by small differences of use as well as lexical ones. Among these we find Instagram, Google+, YouTube, TumbIr and, above all, Twitter.
First of all I owe you an explanation consisting the difference between a dynamic aggregator of relational type and a “standard” social relational community type.
When I was a boy I used to meet my friends at the pub down at my doorstep and surely it wasn’t necessary to agree when. How many of us were present was of no relevance, the bar functioned as a “place of meeting” or of aggregation. Who went to the bar could have a chit-chat on any subject with a good part of his friends and also meet a new person, even if this, to speak the truth, happened rather rarely.
The present social networks are a virtual “place of meeting”, just as “my” bar, where I can communicate with my friends.
Let’s imagine for a moment that in my bar it would have been possible, according to the subject discussed, to communicate and debate with other people who, in some other bars, would have chatted on the same subject.
In doing so, people who don’t know each other and who, probably, don’t have in common any interest or any stable relationship, temporarily succeed in confronting themselves on this or that football game, news, television show, character or political faction. This close examination being ended, everything turns to normal, each individual in his own meeting bar, sipping his drink, unless he voluntarily wants to deepen other subjects proposed by “the other.”
This is, in simple terms, the task of HASHTAG, a thematic relational aggregator based on the terms inserted after the character “#”: the tags. In this case internet doesn’t amplify my real world but, algorithmically, it creates assonances among people who talk about the same subject /social theme and it allows the immediate traceability of it; thematic virtual communities, extemporaneous, between actors who don’t know each other, situation that, in my imaginary, I can picture you by adding another bar nearby the one I hang out, for instance, a billiard room.
The hashtag is the target, the sign; it represents the ideas, the actors, the main objects of the occasional community who makes use of it. It is the nucleus of this close examination and, at the same time, it is the fuel which feeds the close examination itself.
There is a clear symmetry between the term or terms used and the social actors who participate in the debate. From the sociological point of view, I consider HASHTAG as a social actor able to stimulate the participation, to create and relocate the debate, to build a new, even if fleeting, relational net.
The HASHTAG is also an innovative tool because:
– It must be anticipated by a symbol and this community-symbol symbiosis connotes the tag, it allows us to visually perceive its presence, it emphasizes the impact and motivates the participation. The hashtag is, in its own way, a symbol.
– A successfully HASHTAG may also have a brief duration butin this (brief) period of time, it can become a real brand, it may connote or determine a tendency or even new definitive social aggregations, marks, custom’s phenomena, social thematic groups and so on…
– It is also possible to insert in a single message more than a HASHTAG, with a sentence or with a link where I can say “everything” and, at the same time, the “contrary of everything” and therefore participate, contemporarily, in two or more specular round-table discussion. The insertion of more HASHTAG in a message, linked to one another, enriches the message, it describes it and at the same time it determines the participation of more virtual groups. This is clearly a ubiquitous tool.
– It is very difficult, but not impossible to create a new trend with the help of HASHTAG, after all, the same applies to the real world! It is really difficult to create new tendencies of talk and even more difficult to have proselytes.
– It is a “metatag“, a metadata algorithmically tracked by a software whose roots are not informatics or mathematics, but taxonomic. The tag is nothing but the modern heir of the subject’s terms and the keywords used in librarianship.
– Tag doesn’t admit spaces, some successfully HASHTAG are very brief and others extremely brief. Sometimes a tag is worldwide known therefore it changes and surpass the concept of “term in use in our language.”
That’s a fact, by now, that our lexicon is, let’s say, “dehydrating online” therefore it is becomes more and more abbreviated and slangy. Who knows what effects will have in time these “linguistic scissors“, maybe by the end of this century, the dictionaries will even contain thousand of acronyms just like a telephone book.
Other media such as radio, television, and recently, the politics, have perceived the potentialities of this tool. Just a few days ago the premier opened a debate on Twitter and, in the same period, a new television show bloomed on Italian SKY and that is: “Third time”, where an impartial expert sports reporter answers, in no time, to all kinds of questions and invectives tweeted and posted by the enthusiastic Italian supporters.
The HASHTAG doesn’t connect only people to contents and contents to people, it also functions as a “bridge” between the new and the old media.
The HASHTAG, sociologically, can consider itself an “acting subject” or a social actor, not human, but able to perform the active role of the main character on the social networks’ construction.
The HASHTAG is a tool of occasional communication, but at the same time, is powerful, popular, social and global whose strong point is exactly this duality inside its syncretistic, fleeting, but at the same time lasting soul.