Stay Hashtagged

Julkaistu 07.09.2017.

Communication

We talk about a myriad of topics. From the grand larger-than-life news of war and politics to the trivia of celebrities’ wardrobe malfunction, and from the sophisticated highbrow philosophies of life and death to the personal dramas of relationships. Small victories and little frustrations. They affect the individual they happen to most but they also start a ripple touching the lives of others that individual interacts with, however indirect that influence might be.

This butterfly effect of everything we do has become even more effective as we can now share more of our opinions and our personal lives. Thanks to social media, communication has become irreversibly digitized. In an increasingly digital world, this means that communication has evolved just like all other human activities. The notion of humans becoming more like cyborgs, with earpieces and search engines working to a great extent as augmentations of our abilities, is now more enforced than ever with social media working as extensions of our communicative abilities. It is hard, increasingly hard, to remain incommunicado in the age of Facebook and Twitter.

 

In the sea of topics we share involuntarily and indirectly, some topics take prominence. They are the ones we feel are more pressing at a given point, more relevant, or for any number of reasons, we move them to the foreground of our attention and, therefore, they bask in the spotlight of our circle for as long as we deem them worthy of our attention. Be it new shoes, a horrible train accident in town, or the latest office gossip, those topics acquire a life of their own when they are shared, go through a communication evaluation process that determines their life span among people who shape them by commenting on them and sharing them to even wider circles. Perhaps, very like Twitter, we mentally add stripes to the hash mark every time a specific topic is discussed, adding weight and significance to the topic as it travels. Perhaps, also like Twitter, we categorize topics, designating them and categorizing them, as tabooed, or acceptable, religious, political, fun, controversial, and so many others. In our own non-digital communication, we use socio-cultural hashtagging to categorize topics, a coding we ascribe to topics that carries within the background of each topic. This applies to concepts, such as communication itself. In an age of social media, we are more than ever self-conscious about our ability to project a public digital self-image. People have lost jobs because of comments on social media. Security measures in Trump-era US have resorted to social media search of travelers. In other words, in the age of ballooning and limitless communication potential, not only is each one of us hashtagged, but communication itself, in its own age and its most triumphant medium ever, is also hashtagged.

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