A few years ago, in response to global events, we created a display that I promoted on our Instagram. Later that day a member of the administration asked me to delete the hashtag we’d used because clicking on it could lead to some inappropriate content. Of course I did.
To be honest, I should have known better. In the early 00s, I’d created a presentation (and later a toolkit for YALSA) that dealt with social media and I mentioned that hashtags could be problematic. The example I used was that in my world, #BBW stood for Banned Books Week. But to others, it could be the fetish/preferences for Big Beautiful Women. And to still others, the tv series Basketball Wives. So yes, being careful about choosing your hashtag is important.
There has also been a movement to write them in Upper and Lower Case Letters to aid with reading. That’s great, but what about acronyms? And just to keep things fun, acronyms are treated differently in American and British English, as Lynneguist explains in this post about COVID (AmE)/Covid (BrE).
I’ve been thinking about all this since we posted this image on our ‘gram. The hashtag? #westandwithukraine – no Capitals. One of my staff puzzled about it for a little while, because rather than reading “We Stand with Ukraine” she’d read “West and with Ukraine”, which, ok, but not what was intended. It’s a perfect example of choosing the right message, wrong format. It’s easy to just repeat the hashtag presented by Instagram (or Twitter), but it’s also easy to make a few changes that will add clarity for others.
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