Today is the 10th anniversary of Chris Messina suggesting that the pound symbol could be used to tag and organize tweets, thereby tagging and organizing people, ideas, and images. Can you believe it?
Back then, we had no idea what to do with the hashtag. But it’s evolved over the last 10 years: it’s been used to assist news gatherers, make jokes, share bland advice, force musical projects to “trend,” vote for awards, submit to contests, indicate sponsored content, declare oneself “#blessed,” and react to events that are not group triumphs, but feel like they are. It’s been used ironically and sincerely and snarkily and commercially. It’s been used for cathartic group conversations and sneering collective vent sessions. The hashtag #GameofThrones is used every week to make a little White Walker guy show up next to everyone’s complaints about how weird the zombie dragon show has gotten. The hashtag #hashtag10 has been used to celebrate the hashtag’s 10th birthday.
The hashtag has also been used, by me, as a little self-care practice. You can do that too, if you’re looking for a new behavior that helps you get through a day online. You are aware of security blankets, and I assume you’re aware of the idea of using familiar cultural products (like the 2005 Jack’s Mannequin album Everything in the Transit or the third season of Gilmore Girls) as a security blanket. But are you aware of security blanket hashtags?
What is a security blanket hashtag?
Okay, first, I need you to remember the 2000 film Almost Famous, starring Kate Hudson as a young woman in love with a rock star who was inexcusably insensitive about her feelings, particularly considering she was a teenager. Early in that film, she explains her life philosophy, concluding with: “If you ever get lonely, you just go to the record store and visit your friends.”
She is not talking about your literal friends, the people in your life who love you. Those people aren’t usually available 24/7, unfortunately. She’s talking about songs! I am talking about hashtags. When I’m sitting at my computer on a bad day and I get lonely, I go into my security blanket hashtags and visit my friends. Just like Kate Hudson, but with Twitter instead of a record store.
Still not clear on what a security blanket hashtag is.
It can be anything you want. It depends on what type of content you’re into. I love (and have previously written about) the hashtag #GrowingUpADirectioner, which is a hashtag used by One Direction fans to recall simpler times — the times in which One Direction was a band and the tweeters were younger people than they are now.
What if I don’t care about One Direction?
That was just one example. Please relax. Another of my go-to security blanket hashtags is the tag for last summer’s #SoGoneChallenge. It’s just lots of people freestyling over a stretch of instrumentals from Monica’s 2003 song “So Gone.” It picked up a lot of steam when Chance the Rapper submitted an adorable entry about his then-girlfriend. In it, he promises to rub her feet and cuddle with her, even though she had recently bested him so thoroughly in a basketball game that it caused him to sprain his ankle.
Then, hundreds of people started using this hashtag to label their little love raps. There are so many, including a fresh batch in celebration of the tag’s anniversary. It’s romantic and a little embarrassing, my favorite combination of things.
How about five to seven others?
Okay! These are all hashtags in which people do and say nice or funny things that will make you feel healthier and stronger, if only for a fraction of a second. You can use mine, or pick out your own. Obviously I don’t know what makes you feel safe and comforted, and would never dare to guess.
- #MelodramaListeningParty: It’s nice to hang out with my mother — Lorde — and all my siblings.
- #Bughead: What can I say? This is a fun fandom.
- #PlayWithoutaWoman: This is my favorite hashtag from the Day Without a Woman strike back in March. If you are really into musical theater, I promise it will make you laugh!
- #RIPVine: It’s all still there, baby.
- #BeyonceAlwaysOnBeat: A classic!
- #DearOldLove: Shut up!
- #BestCarcass: This one is iffy, mostly for Halloween or nighttime.
How lucky that the hashtag is aging into the double digits today, giving me the gift of a news peg for sharing this piece of advice with you! #blessed