No longer confined to the realm of geeks, nerds, and Ian Watkins, social media - that’s Twitter, Tinder, Tumblr, Skype, Instagram, Facebook, Bebo (ew), Snapchat (lol), Myspace, Yourspace, Pleasegivemesomespace - and the rhetoric that goes with it, is taking over the world; one hashtag at a time.
As we bid farewell to 2013 – the year Kim Kardashian dressed up as a sofa for the Met Ball, Miley Cyrus’s tongue tried to leave her mouth, One Direction’s collective voice broke, and Highella Lawson was baking something funkier than just banana bread – we wave hello to a host of words, terms, and phrases that have tumbled from our screens and into our everyday diction. From "Throwback Thursday’’, "Flashback Friday’’, "Something Inane Saturday’’, (cue Craig David) "We Chilled on Sunday’' to ‘’#nofilter’’, “#YOLO’’, "#winning’', "#hashtag’’; that which is being typed online, is becoming increasingly uttered in real life. This is further exemplified by the fact that the word ‘selfie’ – a photograph taken of oneself in front of a bathroom mirror (because sometimes the reverse camera tool simply won’t do) - not only made the Oxford English Dictionary last year, but, in fact, was named 2013’s ‘Word of The Year’, pipping ‘twerk’, ‘showrooming’, and ‘schmeat’ - that’s synthetically produced meat - to the post.
"Hey check it out’’ JT goes to Jimmy on the Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon, "I brought you some cookies; hashtag homemade, hashtag oatmeal and raisin, hashtag SHOW ME THE COOKIE’’. The sketch, which sees the Trouser Snake and his funny friend hashtag their way from the Mona Lisa to dental cavities (‘’hashtag is she smiling?’’), before promptly being told to ‘’hashtag shut the fuck up’’, highlights the extent to which how we communicate online is affecting how we communicate in real life. Although clearly a parody, the sketch is not entirely far from the truth.
With Twitter’s 140-word limit per tweet, Instagram being about the image, and Facebook just becoming more and more lame, we are constantly being forced to truncate whole sentences into bite-size chunks of information, which is where the hashtag originally came in handy. But what was once used as a means of simplifying and grouping messages online, is currently being used as a prefix to some kind of ironic or funny statement that is spoken in real life, #yougetme? And now, with gems like ‘'hashtag sorry not sorry’’, ‘’hashtag jellybags’’, and, as Rizzle Kicks so eloquently sung ‘’hashtag trend’’, we’re starting to use completely made up words and phrases in every day life.
Furthermore, not only is it affecting how we speak casually amongst friends, it’s also affecting how we write. The reality that editors, fashion journalists, and bloggers (sorry Susie!) are no longer waiting till after shows to write up lengthy reports, but are, in fact, busy hashtagging away on their smartphones in situ (#vitaminwater), is nothing new, and in this case, hashtags are being used to spot actual trends. What is new, however, is the recent inclusion of hashtags, Throw Back Thursdays, and @ signs in longer articles, both online and in print - either as a form of witty irony (see above) or as a means of trying to be trendy, sort of like when your dad keeps writing ‘LOL!!!’ in a text, because he’s just found out it no longer means ‘lots of love’. Either way, it begs the question: are we ruining the English language or are we the new hashtag Shakespeares? Should we continue this trend of using words that are funny, yes, but meaningless all the same? Or should we, as Regina George once said, "stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen, Gretchen’’?
The answer is, of course, no, we’re not ruining the English language; we’re updating it. By the end of 2013, the internet had become the new street (© Dean ‘Kissy’ Kissick), fashion film had upped its game, and fashion shows were beginning to look a lot like a Star Wars film what with holograms and projections waltzing down the catwalk. Meanwhile, social media, and the rhetoric that goes with it, was there to report it all, in a way that the traditional English language was and still is not entirely equipped to deal with.
For example, lacking the correct word to describe their True Romance meets 1980s Miami aesthetic, dreamy duo Pixie Geldof and Ashley Williams invented the term #funkyoffish, short for funky official (and not to be confused with emo haven Punkyfish), and explained it to the world through Instagram. Similarly, 2013 also saw much loved magazines taking it in turns to pimp out their websites and start embracing the language of social media – both online and in print - in order to stay hip, relevant, and in tune with their internet savvy audience. And with it’s ‘News 140’, ‘#24hoursin_’, ‘Throwback Thursday’ and ‘#lovethyselfie’ sections, i-D is leading the pack.
Today, the industry’s most creative minds are pushing the boundaries of technology to where no blogger has gone before, and in order to describe such innovations, language has just hashtag gotta keep up. If the internet is indeed the new street, the rhetoric of social media must be our new language.