In Defense Of Hashtags

Even snobs and technophobes should accept the hashtag.

All but the most naturally social-network inclined express at least a mild pang of self-conscious shame when they use a #hashtag in a Facebook post, or, worse, a book or article. But no other symbol has invaded our written language quite so quickly in recent memory.


I am part of a familiarly curmudgeonly group of people. You all know at least one member of this group (I have a friend who insists on reading "#" as "pound"). We hate Twitter, mistrust Kindles, bristle at the very idea of skateboards, and generally pretend to disdain the things we don't understand.

We want you to get off our lawn.

That is why it is so hard for me to admit this: Hashtags are kind of great. 

So how can I support the use of #hashtags and still be a self-respecting Luddite snob?

#Rationalization! See, I have decided to treat hashtags as a sort of punctuation, like any other. And once you do that, you can see that having a shorthand, symbolic way to indicate the general concept to which a particular statement relates is pretty damn useful. 

Just as a semicolon (of which punctuation I am an ardent defender, contra Kurt Vonnegut, Cormac McCarthy, et al.) records a conceptual relatedness between two sentences or clauses, a hashtag can tell a reader what big idea justifies or grounds an utterance. #addedclarityinwrittencommunication

So, curmudgeons, snobs, Luddites, pedants join me! Stop turning up your nose at the hashtag. #getoveritalready

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Afghanistan is the most depressed country on earth

No, depression is not just a type of 'affluenza' – poor people in conflict zones are more likely candidates

Image: Our World in Data / CC BY
Strange Maps
  • Often seen as typical of rich societies, depression is actually more prevalent in poor, conflict-ridden countries
  • More than one in five Afghans is clinically depressed – a sad world record
  • But are North Koreans really the world's 'fourth least depressed' people?
Keep reading Show less

Banned books: 10 of the most-challenged books in America

America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.

Nazis burn books on a huge bonfire of 'anti-German' literature in the Opernplatz, Berlin. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
  • Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
  • Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Oumuamua, a quarter-mile long asteroid tumbling through space, is Hawaiian for "scout", or "the first of many".
  • It was given this name because it came from another solar system.
  • Some claimed 'Oumuamua was an alien technology, but there's no actual evidence for that.