Q: What is a hashtag?

A: You may have attended an event and heard someone ask you to use a hashtag, or maybe you have seen a pound sign in front of some words strung together and wondered what the heck it was. Just as an example, if you follow the library on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, we sometimes use #librarylife to accompany some of our pictures.

So what is that pound sign accompanied by words all about? On social media, placing a pound sign in front of a word or phrase turns it into a searchable link. For this to work, the words must be connected as one string with no spaces. For example,

#familyvacation will work, but # family vacation will not.

The purpose of grouping words or phrases with the pound sign to form a hashtag is so that an individual can search by hashtags or click on a hashtag and see all posts related to that topic. This can be used for something as frivolous as #JustinBieber or as serious as #TheGreatFlood. Think of it as a way of cataloging social media posts by topic. If you start paying attention, you’ll notice there are hashtags for everything. Businesses encourage customers to hashtag when using their products (#ShareaCoke), politicians encourage their supporters to use hashtags supporting their platforms, and individuals might use hashtags just as a simple way to describe a post (#beachtrip, #love).

You may notice as I write these examples, that sometimes I capitalize the words and sometimes I don’t. With a hashtag, capitalization doesn’t matter.

There are certain hashtags that are used frequently by users all over social media that are abbreviations. Here are a few:

• #TBT: Throw Back Thursday – This is used when posting old photographs, or “throwbacks” every Thursday.

• #WCW: Woman Crush Wednesday – This is used on Wednesdays to accompany a photograph of a woman an individual thinks is attractive. It is often used with photographs of celebrities.

• #MCM: Man Crush Monday – Not to be left out, men have a day of the week, too!

• #OOTD: Outfit of the Day – This is a hashtag that often accompanies a picture a person takes of his or her outfit.

There are too many hashtags and abbreviations out there for me to list them all, and remember these often have to do with trends in the news and popular culture, so the commonly used hashtags are always changing.

Is there a hashtag or internet abbreviation you have seen that you are unfamiliar with? Write to me and let me know!

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Sarah Colombo is the Branch Manager of the Main Branch of the Livingston Parish Library. She can be reached at scolombo@mylpl.info or 225-686-4169.

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