It wasn’t until I started using Instagram that I began to understand “the Hashtag.”

I was like some others, wondering, “What in the world is all of this weird chatter?!” I found myself annoyed as I tried to make my way through whatever the person wrote and how, within the paragraph, they’d have a bunch of words #allgroupedtogetherwithoutspaces that made it pretty difficult to read and understand.

Then…I discovered the world of Instagram. When I first started posting pictures, I was more interested in all of the great filters it had. As someone that uses the auto-dial feature on my camera, this app, with all of its filters, was pretty awesome. Even though lots of friends used them, I didn’t put hashtags at first because, quite frankly, I just didn’t get it. But, pretty soon I was catching on to how it all worked and joined the ranks in using a few with each picture, so that they’d be grouped under various themes.

Have you ever actually clicked on one of those linked hashtags? I was really surprised the first time I did because it took me to a whole bunch of photos from people I didn’t even know. I’ll admit, at first this bothered me because I didn’t want people seeing my photos, so I created some that were unique to me – ones that most people wouldn’t even think of, or want to use.

I’m pretty much a people watcher so I thought this would be an interesting #hashtaginvestigation. I started clicking around to see what other people were posting. Now I’ll agree, some hashtagging is a bit much, but I found myself completely drawn in to many of the pictures that were shared. Some were fun and well…interesting (okay, just plain dumb)…but others tugged at my heartstrings. I saw that they’re used to draw like-minded people together.

I first looked under ones that I often use…

#believe – and found lots encouraging quotes and people who are blazing new trails.
#extraordinarylove – and found couples hugging, people praying, quotes and Bible verses.
#beyourself – and found crazy selfies, people laughing and loving their life.
#loml (love of my life) – and found children, couples, animals and love quotes.

But then I did another search and looked up…

#failure – and I found selfies that reflect struggle with self-esteem, pictures of girls who looked anorexic and anguishing over eating too much that day.

#depressed –and I found quotes about sadness, lonely faces, or hands over their faces in grieving prayer.

#lost – and I found sad faces, quotes about addictions, even a picture of razor blades with names given to each one, as if they represented various areas of their life that cause them pain.

You know, I originally got involved in social networking when the young girls I was leading in my youth group asked me to join. I wasn’t interested at all then, but once they convinced me and we started chatting online, I realized something…that they were more comfortable talking to me there than in a face-to-face setting. Some of our deepest conversations took place online.

Social networking definitely has its flaws, but it can be used in very useful ways. Want to get into someone’s life? Then really pay attention to what they are posting. I have learned tons about people on various networks simply by what they share and write about.

Hashtags…I believe they are, in essence, a way to share a life and wanting someone to care. So #donthatethehashtag; there’s more to them than they appear.

For those who post hashtags that are all about #love, #fun, #happiness, and #encouragement…they’re just trying to invite people into what brings them light in their world and spread it around a bit.

And those who post #criesforhelp…well, it’s an opportunity to see a hurting heart that could use a kind word of encouragement and a prayer.

So go ahead…be brave…and click on a few.
But please…#donthatethehashtag


like the hashtag


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