Today, Twitter unveiled its long awaited photo and video sharing, not only leaving the likes of Twitpic, Yfrog and Twitvid in the dust… with a twist: pushing hashtags. Watch Twitter’s new “Top pictures” and “Top Videos” soon becoming the latest buzz word in both social and mainstream media.
In watching the official unveiling video below, Twitter is smartly appealing to users’ love-hate relationship with the ubiquitous 140 characters limit: too limiting to ramble but fantastic to consume and digest.
Twitter does this by upgrading the old age adage: “A picture is worth 1,000 words” by adding to it that “A hashtag is worth a 1,000 pictures”. Something a simple as a # and a word more meaningful than 1,000 pictures? Tall order you think? Maybe not so for those among us who dabbled with the use of hashtags on Twitter.
If you put the #perfectmoment hashtag side by side along with an actual picture of what someone decided it was the representation of a perfect moment; which do you think will be more powerfully meaningful? Your imagination or the visual representation of someone else’s judgment?
Like a smirk, a jaunty body expression, or a hushed voice, a hashtag can completely change the way we interpret a message, by jamming together our subconscious associations of the two (word and image). Just look at how people use hashtags; certainly there is a lot of standard informational tagging, but more and more, people employ hashtags for creative reasons which don’t necessarily follow from the content of their Tweets.
I’d never thought about it in those terms before, but after the article’s author makes that stellar point, I realized that the effectiveness of hashtags stems from the same basic principle of Eisenstein’s “montage theory” that guides modern film editing – the idea being, that our brains naturally form a connection between seemingly disparate ideas, a connection that allows us to “tell the story” of what happened bewteen two nonsequential film shots.
The principle is exactly the same as non-sequitor hashtags; they cause our minds to expand the interpretive framework we come to understand the statement/image/idea through, reshaping the message itself in the process.
The amazing thing about hashtags, and our ability to process nonsequential film images, is that even completely ostebsibly unconnected individuals can come to find a deep, universal connection with others, through their shared experiences and associations. You’ve felt this every time a theater has erupted in laughter in unison, or when you’re compelled to retweet that witty, ironic Tweet with a dozen other people.
As we start to understand memes, hashtags, trends, and other essential products of human communication, we are revealing, bit by bit, how fundamentally related we humans really are.