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Hashtag Hatred?

New Platforms such as Threads and Bluesky are Bucking the Trend and Signalling a Shift in Social Media

For years, the humble hashtag has had it so good! It's been a cornerstone of social media. From Twitter's early days, these little hashes (or pound signs if you are Americanly inclined) have helped people who create posts on these platforms categorise content, build communities, and drive engagement. But with the rise of new social media apps like Threads and Bluesky, where hashtags are absent, I have to ask myself... Is the hashtag's reign coming to an end?

Threads and Bluesky: Hashtag-Free Horizons

So as mentioned above, two new social media platforms, Threads and Bluesky are new and promising successors to Elon Musk's X (formerly Twitter of course) and are hoping to become the new king of microblogging. At first glance, they look very similar and any new user will feel very at home with them, but after a little usage, you quickly realise there are differences, and curiously one of those glaring differences is that both have eschewed the traditional hashtag system.

Threads aiming to be focused on ephemeral messaging and close connections, prioritising natural language understanding and personalised feeds, apparently rendering hashtags unnecessary.

Bluesky is a decentralised platform advocating for user ownership and data control, it views hashtags as potential silos within open networks.

A New Paradigm?

These hashtag-free platforms signal a potential shift in how we navigate online communities. However, anybody who has used Social Media a lot will know how useful hashtags can be in bringing traffic to your post. Without this valuable tool, how do we get our posts noticed? 

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Focus on content, not keywords: Without hashtags, emphasis shifts to the content itself. Platforms like Threads encourage authentic, nuanced communication, while Bluesky prioritises discoverability through quality content and user connections.

  • Niche communities vs. mass trends: Hashtags often lead to trending topics and broad communities. Hashtag-free platforms might foster smaller, more intimate communities built around actual shared interests and conversations.

  • Decentralisation and control: Platforms like Bluesky advocate for user control over data and algorithms, at least on the facia. Removing hashtags does align with this philosophy, as they can sometimes act as irrelevant pointers to other posts and conversations.

So, Is This the End of Hashtags?

It's important not to sound the death knell for hashtags just yet. They remain valuable tools for other platforms, particularly for discoverability and reaching wider audiences who don't currently follow you.

However, the emergence of these hashtag-free platforms highlights a potential future where social media revolves more around meaningful connections, personalised experiences, and user-driven discovery. That's got to be good right? 

The Future: A Dynamic Landscape

Whether hashtags become relics of the past or evolve into more nuanced tools remains to be seen. Ultimately, the future of social media interaction will likely be a dynamic landscape, with different platforms catering to diverse needs and preferences. Just recently, both Threads and Bluesky have announced that they are looking into implementing some kind of hashtag system after user confusion, so this phenomenon may be short-lived. I say, long live the hashtag!


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19 Feb 2024
Author: Craig Pickles (YorkshireTechy)