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Hashtags were developed by social media guru Chris Messina in 2007, in the earliest days of Twitter. Messina suggested them as a way to find communities in the vast world of the Internet. Since then, hashtags have developed as a communication tool not just on Twitter, but other social media sites as well. Twitter, however, is still the primary place where people use hashtags to watch TV shows and movies together, experience live events, discuss politics and joke with other users from all over the globe, and it’s where the most popular hashtags on the Internet can be found.
Twitter isn’t just a place for serious politics, but also for entertainment, and the celebrity who is probably most talked about on the internet is Charlie Sheen. In 2011, he was fired from the TV show “Two and a Half Men” and put under house arrest for substance abuse. In an interview, Sheen said, among other things, that he drank tiger blood and was “winning.” The oddity and irony of Sheens’ behavior was too much for the Internet, which immediately started using #tigerblood and #winning to indicate anything bizarre or stupid. The hashtags still trend whenever Sheen is in the news.
Although not as dramatic as the #Egypt hashtag, Moscow has been a hotbed of protest since 2011 and recently attracted the Internet’s attention again with the reelection of Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister in 2012, hunger strikes by the incarcerated members of the band Pussy Riot in 2013, and the literally millions of user-posted videos of a meteorite in the skies above Russia. #Moscow and #Russia are catching up to #Egypt in popularity.
Can revolutions be organized through social media? The hashtag #Egypt proved that it was possible when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned in 2011 and young Egyptians used #Egypt to organize anti-government protests on the ground via their cell phones. Not only did the hashtag trend in Egypt, but also around the world as millions of people tweeted their support for the protesters or used the hashtag to follow developments.
As Twitter grew quickly in popularity, the API servers regularly went down, meaning the site was completely unavailable for all its users. Instead of seeing their Twitter stream, users instead were treated to a picture of a whale being carried in the air by several tiny birds. This image became known as the Fail Whale, and as soon as Twitter users were able to get back online, they’d tweet using #failwhale. What does it mean? In a way, it’s an ironic representation of how much they love Twitter—they can’t stand to be without it for a single minute.
One of the longest-running hashtags on Twitter, #FollowFriday or #FF is a way for Twitter users to recommend their favorite tweeters to their followers. It happens every Friday and is a worldwide event. Ideally, #FollowFriday should consist of recommendations for Twitter accounts that one believes are genuinely awesome, but for the most part people just #FF all their followers so that no one will feel left out, creating something closer to white noise.