‘TAG! You’re an idiot!’
A rant about the abundance of hash tags in today’s society.
Young William does his best impression of a chess pawn.
When the sun comes out and the mercury starts rising, what we like most of all is to go outside so we can feel the warmth, then immediately find a way of making ourselves cold again. Some people like to do this by having a poor-quality ice cream from a shifty looking fellow in a large musical van, whereas others, perhaps the more young at heart among us, like to have a water fight instead, drawing pleasure from making themselves all wet and miserable, so that they feel colder than they would have done if the sun had not come out. If you do indeed have a water fight, you will certainly be the top dog in said fight if you have a very powerful water pistol that can superbly soak your foes. You can reach people from a distance and have literally minutes of fun before you run out of water. What’s even better is that your foes will not mind being hit, because it is a water fight, after all, and they want to cool down, so your water pistol is fulfilling a purpose that is really of benefit to all involved.
Now imagine if you are walking down a train platform at rush hour on a Monday morning, while hordes of miserable people are all marching in time like corporate zombies, to work eight miserable hours in an uncomfortable suit, for a man who does not care about their well-being. Then, SURPRISE, you jump out from behind a wall and obstruct their path, before soaking everyone in sight. WHAM! Right in the face! Right in the groin! Aiming for any electrical paraphernalia in their hands! Your spray of cold water is unavoidable; it would be even worse if your pistol were filled with scalding hot soup.
The water pistol is completely acceptable within its intended context of a water fight; again, it serves its intended, if rather pointless, purpose. However, if you take it out of this context and bring it into a real life situation, attacking people who are not willingly involved in the game, you suddenly become a huge irritant to those around you, showing a lack of awareness about what and when certain behaviour is acceptable. /end metaphor/.
Now imagine that water fight situation is the rather handy news platform, but more often the adolescent-filled cesspit of hate, that is Twitter, and that water pistol is the irritating little ‘hash tag’. When on Twitter, the hash tag is used to group together messages containing a key word or phrase, which you can then access by simply clicking the tag in question. Even when in its intended forum of use, the hash tag is open to infantile abuse, such as packs of young girls using it to trend juvenile and humourless phrases such as ‘#ReplaceMcFlySongsWithBoobs (this actually happened), and then laughing amongst themselves at their brilliant puns of ‘Five Colours in Her Boobs and ‘It’s All About Boobs’. This further abuse is basically the water fight equivalent of that dirty kid who pisses in his water pistol before aiming at your face. But, then again, even in this situation, the hash tag is being used in its intended platform and if you want nothing to do with it, you can stay away from the whole sorry affair.
‘If someone retweets me, I know I’ve made it’
Sadly, in the last few years, hash tags have begun seeping into the real world, outside of Twitter, being employed by those who either want to look like they’re ‘down with the kids’, or by those who have spent so long staring at their ‘Interactions’ page, waiting for a retweet of their “You wouldn’t love me without my makeup” tweet, that they’re no longer sure of the boundaries between their life of Twitter infamy and their life where they need to communicate with actual people.
This grating phenomenon has popped up in both the world of television and music. I can understand that the makers of a trashy Channel 4 documentary will want their programme to be talked about by the thousands who spend their television time glued to a computer or smart phone screen, and they want to make sure that their programme is a ‘top trend’ by suggesting a hash tag that all viewers can use, in order to group all related messages together. Yet, if your documentary is good enough (or ridiculous enough, see: Dogging Tales) anyway, people will already be talking about it. It is tediously annoying that every time your programme comes back after the adverts, the channel is reminding you what you are watching, saying TALK ABOUT MY PROGRAMME, #DISCUSSTHISWITHYOURIMAGINARYFRIENDS, but even then, the best shows do not need to tell you what to talk about, people will talk about them anyway. For example, Ben Elton’s abominable so-called ‘comedy’ (abomedy?) ‘The Wright Way’, received such a huge weekly backlash on Twitter that reading the resulting disdain, plot predictions and questions about Elton’s mental health, made the programme worth watching every week (“Don’t tell me, the man who he just upset in the ten-items-or-less queue is going to turn out to be the doctor who does his prostate exam?”).
Even worse than hash tags on television is the use of the hash tag in a SONG title. Will.I.Am did it for both album ‘#Willpower’ and single ‘#thatPOWER’ featuring monkey-botherer Justin Bieber, while Mariah Carey saw it necessary to name her new single featuring 2016 Olympic kick-boxing hopeful Miguel, ‘#Beautiful’. The hash tag has no use whatsoever in these song and album titles. You do slightly expect that kind of behaviour from Will.I.Am, as he is now better known for being a silly, catchphrase-churning TV personality than for being a respectable musical artist, but there is nothing about the Mariah song and video that suggests it is gimmicky enough to warrant a hash tag in its name (expect, perhaps, her stupid giggling and writhing around like a woman who should know better).
We should not be humouring or encouraging this blatant disregard for a symbol’s purpose, just think about that boy squirting piss onto your nice, clean suit. Nor is it right to castigate these people for their ignorance, as much as I’d like to lock up Will.I.Am, Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, and force them to listen to eardrum-burstingly loud ‘Harlem Shake’ on repeat for 24 hours. The best thing to do is to just ignore them so they stop. Searching the Official Charts Company’s online records shows that they do not have a favourable view of the ‘#’ in song titles, simply listing the songs as ‘BEAUTIFUL’ and ‘THATPOWER’, and rightly so. Incidentally, among the songs that are listed including the hash symbol, the first charting song to employ the hash tag was ‘#9 Dream’ by John Lennon in 1975. If he were still alive today, would we punish him for this? No, we would not, because the symbol was used correctly to mean ‘number’. That’s John for you, he respected the rules. He didn’t deserve to die.
Embedded above here is the song that has driven me to write this rant, the current number one single, ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and the ageless Pharrell Williams. The song itself sounds like your typical, basic Pharrell-produced track, and the first time I heard it, I thought it was another Pharrell-produced track, ‘Give It 2 Me’ by Madonna feat. Pharrell (don’t get me started on that bloody ‘2’). If that wasn’t enough to tempt you, the song (and video) are very sexist, which isn’t so appropriate in this age, but you have to love a song that features the line “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”, right guys?
The video for the song is 4:32 long, and features the hash-tagged name #THICKE filling up the screen a ridiculous TWENTY-EIGHT (28) times, and the hash-tagged song title #BLURREDLINES, a further three times. That equates to a hash tag filling the screen, and it’s not exactly discrete, every 8.7 seconds.
In case, in the last 8 seconds, you have forgotten what you are listening to…
There is no need for it; it is not fulfilling any purpose. This whole thing needs to stop before everyone is saying the words ‘hash tag’ in conversation, like Poet Laureate, Kerry Katona, who exclaimed the words ‘HASH TAG: PANIC’ on an episode of The Big Reunion. It’s fine, or at least tolerable, when used in its intended forum of Twitter, but it is simply not acceptable in REAL life. We all know that everyone spends half their life trawling social networking sites while pretending to be doing something more worthwhile, but nobody actually admits to this! We don’t want another situation like where everyone was making the old Facebook ‘poke’ sex joke a few years ago (or like an episode of ‘The Wright Way’ did last week, well done Ben Elton), despite it being a feature that I am pretty sure nobody actually used.
Otherwise we’ll all grow to accept this kind of behaviour and we will end up with the General Register Office issuing birth certificates to babies called bloody @Britney.