Free Range: Hash


Posted by Susan Orlean

The semiology and phenomenology of hashtaggery intrigues me. From what I understand, it all began very simply: on Twitter, hashtags—those little checkerboard marks that look like this #—were used to mark phrases or names, in order to make it easier to search for them among the zillions and zillions of tweets. For instance, if you wanted to make a comment about Sarah Palin, you could include her name in the tweet, or you could make the comment and follow it with her name marked by hashtag. That is, you could tweet,

“I would rather have a moose for President than Sarah Palin!”

Or, making good use of a hashtag,

“I would rather have a moose for President! #SarahPalin”.

The tweet with the hashtag was more likely to come up in a search for tweets about Sarah Palin, as well as being punchier and more exclamatory. The practice is now a Twitter standard.

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The collapse of workfare is testament to the power of the modern media elite and its slavish Twitter followers

“What could be worse than the government’s workfare programme?”, almost every columnist in the land is currently asking. I can think of one thing worse: the awesome and terrifying power of the commentariat and its slavish groupies amongst the Twitterati to strike down initiatives like workfare and almost any other government project that they don’t like. That’s the real story here. Forget the historically illiterate wailing about young people being forced into “slave labour” or the idea that getting yoof to work in return for money is the Worst Thing Ever. The ins and outs of workfare itself pale into insignificance when compared with the new power of tiny cliques of cut-off people to override public opinion and reshape modern Britain.

The speed with which first Tesco, that supposedly arrogant monolith of the high street, and then others withdrew from the workfare scheme was alarming. It was a testament both to the sheepishness of modern corporations (remember this next time someone starts banging on about “free-market fundamentalism”) and to the authority of the therapeutic, suspicious-of-wealth, pro-state, anti-big-business sections of the well-fed media classes, who can n

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Facebook and Twitter: the anti-social networks that bring out the worst in us all

Every time I log on to Facebook these days, I feel as if a little bit of me dies inside. Specifically, the bit of me responsible for faith in the world and the human beings that inhabit it. It’s not just that Bono stands to make more than a billion dollars from the company’s flotation (he was an early financial backer), although obviously this does very little to kerb the feelings of misanthropy that threaten to engulf my very being every time I see that stupid little F logo. No. It’s mostly my “friends” on the site, who seem to spend their days sharing meaningful quotes, pictures of snowmen they have built, and extreme political opinions of both persuasions.

Here’s the thing: Facebook has made me actively dislike people. Worse, I think it has made me actively enjoy disliking people. For passive aggressives who are too weak simply to de-friend the people they don’t like and get on with their lives, Facebook (and Twitter, for that matter) are dangerous things. These aren’t social networks – they are anti-social networks, outlets for all manner of pent-up aggression that might turn me into a complete sociopath otherwise.

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Facebook? Tweets? iPads? How Absolutely Fatuous, says Joanna Lumley

For many, her forthright views on mobile phones, iPads, social networks and their ilk will come as a breath of fresh air.Joanna Lumley declares technology ‘a waste of life’ and admits she prefers pencil and paper to texting or tweeting.The 65-year-old Absolutely Fabulous star also revealed that she did not even use her mobile phone and kept it ‘switched off at all times’. Traditional: Joanna Lumley declares technology is a waste of life and admits she prefers pencil and paper to texting or tweetingMiss Lumley was adamant that she would not be following in the footsteps of Ab Fab creator Jennifer Saunders, who recently joined Twitter and now has more than 41,000 followers.She said she would never join a social networking site, adding: ‘Never, not Facebook, not anything. I’m returning to writing in pencil on lined paper

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