In Chapter 4 of our Van Dijck book, it talks about the basics of Twitter and how it became a relevant social media platform. Included in this is a discussion of the symbols and new terminology that Twitter has created. Twitter has created a new meaning for what used to be just a number sign- the hashtag. Not only this, but the verb “tweet” is a commonly understood word these days. It is actually defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
I first started my exposure to Twitter during my senior year of high school. I created my account to tweet the hashtag #FlyHighGaby, which was a reference to a girl at my high school that passed away in a car accident. One of her dreams was to trend on Twitter, and through the community tweeting the heck out of the hashtag, she actually did. Not only just trending, but at one point, it was the number one trend WORLDWIDE. You can read more about her story here.
At the time, I didn’t really understand Twitter or the purpose of a hashtag. For the first few months, I didn’t really tweet much other than the occasional tweet. My account at the time really only existed because of #FlyHighGaby. However, once I began my freshman year here at LVC, I actually started to become an active user of Twitter, as I began to understand the platform, and as Facebook kept making changes that kept lowering and lowering my interest in that service. Since I have made the switch from posting on Facebook to Twitter, it has changed what the # symbol means to me. Unless I am in a mathematical or programming setting, if I see a number sign, to me it is a hashtag.
I find this very interesting to think about. Twitter has changed a large portion of our population’s perception of a simple number sign. 4 or 5 years ago, I bet everyone would have agreed that it was simply a number sign. Or maybe a Tic-Tac-Toe board. Either way, today, most internet users will agree that # represents a hashtag. Also, the verb “tweet” and all its forms, “tweeting,” “tweeted,” “tweets,” and etc, are recognized by most internet friendly people. Even Coach Monos, the 60+ year old head coach of the football team here at LVC, knows what “tweeting” means. Twitter’s growth in past 8 years has been remarkable along with its ability to change the meaning of symbols and become a defined word in the dictionary.