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“SELF”-WAY COMMUNICATIONS THROUGH SELF-PORTRAIT

in MY WORK

This article is published via Thrive Global portal: Selfie: it is not a novelty in the human desire for (self-)expression 

Nowadays, for most people everyday life comprises a comprehensive use of modern technologies, communications in the digital world as well as sharing information and content in real time via a large number of social networks. Mobile – Smart phones are with us almost all the time but their initial, primary function – telephone conversation – is increasingly giving way to other forms of online communication.

At one of the last conferences on the subject of arts in the United States, Marcus Romer, an actor and director, stated that while it took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million users from its founding, on the other hand, it took 13 years for television, Facebook achieved the same success in just two years. This is an indication of how the future of communication based on information technology is uncertain because the options are immeasurable, and the speed of development is unknown. (Tatomirović T., „Virtuelno komuniciranje u budućnosti: upotreba i zloupotreba”, CM Časopis za upravljanje komuniciranjem [“Virtual communication in the future: the use and abuse”, CM Journal for communications management,] 7/2008, 103-112.)

If we look at commercials for mobile phones only superficially, we will notice that few of them show people as they talk. Most commercials contain scenes with young smiling customers who are shooting entertaining photos, usually selfies (self-portrait photography), intended for sharing on social networks.

The use of modern technology in all aspects of life also inevitably affects the way we view and experience the world and people around us and the way we see ourselves in the environment. Photos of others, and more and more of ourselves, as well as portraits and self-portraits that we make with an unprecedented ease – are provided to us by tools that are no longer the privilege of a small number of people, but the mass means of communication.

The connection between the latest technological solutions and social networks has offered a platform in which a self-portrait gets its own mass version in the form of selfies and its visibility and distribution has been supported by sharing information in real time.

Opinions differ over whether the selfie is just a reflection of narcissism or it may represent a process of self-exploration, or a deeper needs to communicate with other people through the images – photos, reflections of ourselves. In this context, this paper deals with the question of whether through selfies their authors primarily want to “impose” themselves to the views of others or the communication which may be developed from such interactions is also important to them.

In relation to these issues, this paper analyzes the findings published in 2015 in the International Journal of Communication no. 9, which were reached by two teams of scientist exploring the potential importance of selfies, – Dr. David Nemer and Dr. Guo Freeman, and Dr. Theresa Senft and Dr. Nancy Baym, as well as the views of the authors of traditional self-portraits such as Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol. This issue is dealt with by Dr. Pamela Rutledge, an expert on the subject of relations between psychology and media technologies within her work published on the portal Psychology Today.com (Rutledge, 2013).

Furthermore, monitoring hashtag #selfie on the social network Twitter, for a period of four weeks, from August 11 2016 to September 7 2016 (https://www.tvitni.com/campaign/at3PJ/mxh9Nv4,2016.) provided a quantitative analysis, i.e. an insight into the data on the number of users, in this case of the Twitter social network, which were during a randomly selected period in some way engaged in online activities that were related to digital self-portraits (selfies). Thus, we want to show that, although it is not a novelty in the human desire for (self-)expression, the frequency of the phenomenon definitely takes on a whole new dimension thanks to modern technologies and new media.

The aim of this study was to confirm the hypothesis that selfie, as a form of communication via self- portrait, is not basically a novelty but it is the phenomenon which is the result of the technological development, as well as to try to explain the purpose of self-portrayal ie. selfie phenomenon.

 

Selfie and a painting self-portrait as its forerunner

People have always felt the need to present themselves to others, but also to themselves, and thus the first known self-portraits emerged along with the improvement of the process of the mirror production during the Renaissance. Until the nineteenth century, they were most often created only by painters like the pioneer of self-portraiting, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).

The development of cameras and photos has enabled more people to capture themselves, of course with the cost and time which were linked with the development of the film. The first known photographic self-portrait was made by Robert Cornellius in 1839 (www.petapixel.com, 2014) ..

Digital cameras and the Internet have facilitated for an even greater number of people to share with others the moments they recorded themselves in a short period of time. Then, the twenty-first century has brought smart mobile phones with front-facing camera (iPhone 4 was released later in 2010), as well as social networks focused on photo and video content, such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook , YouTube and others.

In its proclamation of the word “selfie” for the “word of 2013”, the Oxford Dictionary has stated that the reason for its proclamation that very year was that it had not gained wider popularity from the moment when it was first used in 2002 on an online forum until 2012 – but it experienced enormous expansion in 2013. Analyzing the frequency of the use of these words, the Oxford Dictionary has stated that it was used even 17,000% more in 2013 than in the previous year.

The word “selfie” was included in the Oxford Dictionary by the definition: “A photo of oneself, typically taken with one’s smartphone or webcam and posted on social networking site.” (Oxford University Press, 2013)

In order to be able to make a parallel between selfies and a traditional self-portrait, it is necessary to take into account the definition of the word “self-portrait”: “Portrait of oneself made by an artist and the word “portrait”: “A painting, drawing, photograph, engraving of a person – especially the one that displays only the face or head and shoulders” (Oxford Dictionaries) . From this, we can conclude that the only difference between selfies and traditional self-portrait is that the first does not have to be made by a famous artist, but by any person who subsequently may also become famous after the selfie was being shared on social networks.

Drawing parallels between selfies and self-portraits in the context of art analyses and evaluations is not something that this paper deals with. Another type of parallel will be discussed and it refers to the essence of what exists in both forms of auto-portrayal, and that is the communication with the reader.

Distribution and popularity of selfies can certainly be associated with the mass availability of technologies and platforms that allow them, but there is another aspect, the one that relates to human needs and desires. Most people see and experience themselves through relationships with others, beyond how other people see them.

The need to present ourselves to others in a certain way, and so to participate in creating a perception of who we are, also lies in the basis of older versions of (self)portraits. Throughout human history, painting, sculpturing or stonemasoning material have not always been easily and widely available and those who could afford the resources and talent to create works of art also sought to create their portraits, primarily as a form of documentation, “capturing” or status. Thanks to technological solutions, selfie excludes “intermediaries” (the artist who would make a portrait), but not the need to say or express something through the display, image of ourselves.

 

The past and the impact of technology on the development of the prevalence of self-portraits

How important are selfies in social and cultural terms, and whether their great presence contributed to a better communication among people – are issues dealt with by the International Journal of Communications no. 9, from 2015. It implied that selfie fosters relationships, communication between people who share, comment or like them – and therefore may serve to convey the deeper messages. (International Journal of Communications No. 9, Introduction, 2015)

This description, which unlike the Oxford dictionary also states interaction between people, and not just the act of posting photos on the social network, is also supplemented by explaining that the interaction is enabled through technological factors. Selfie exists thanks to mobile phones, computers and the Internet. This very technology is responsible for the fact that original selfie, which is made in real time and for the first time shared – will become a part of the infrastructure of the digital space – and therefore outlive the moment and place of its creation. (International Journal of Communications No. 9, Introduction, 2015)

From the cultural point of view, the selfie can contribute to a better understanding of different cultures, their traditions, the acceptance or rejection of various phenomena and attitudes. By detailed monitoring of online trends, we can come to the conclusion whether and how a certain attitude/message is expressed through selfie, accepted by people of different genders, ages, economic statuses, skin colors, religions etc. In short, selfie can help spread an opinion and accelerate discussion about it.

Opinions differ regarding the fact that the selfie is a phenomenon that primarily affects the society in a positive (encouraging communication and exchange of views) or a negative way (alienating us and satisfying our narcissism or objectivization).

Dr. David Nemer and Dr. Guo Freeman of the University of Indiana, in an article entitled “Empowering the marginalized: reflecting upon selfies in the slums of Brazil” (International Journal of Communications No. 9, Nemer and Freeman, 2015) say that exploring the phenomenon of selfies in Brazilian favelas they reached a conclusion that young people who live in them use selfies “to talk about the violence in their area, to document their lives and to inform their parents that they are safe during the day.” They post selfies on social networks as a form of realization of freedom of speech, interconnection, sharing of information which may be of vital importance. Therefore, selfies become a very important and powerful tool for expressing social and personal attitudes and concerns, as well as the means by which young people in the favelas document their lives. (International Journal of Communications No. 9, Nemer and Freeman, “Empowering the marginalized: thinking about selfies in the slums of Brazil, 2015)

Documenting personal life situations, statuses and the impact of broader social developments on an individual can be found in the self-portraits by famous painters.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) is considered to be one of the most important painters of self-portraits. During his life, he made nearly 100 self-portraits, but he is not the greatest so much due to the number of self-portraits, but due to reality of his self-portraits. He painted himself as a young, old, poor, rich, serious, smiling man… He analyzed himself and his life’s ups and downs – trying to document them as closely as possible.

Looking at his works, three stages of creating self-portraits can be recognized, each of which has portrayed a situation which he was in. His early self-portraits give the impression of freshness, curiosity, creativity and desire to undergo self-experiment and research. Then, followed a phase of life in which he was recognized, famous, respected and wealthy. Self-portraits from this period reflect the dignity, although they seem to have lost the immediacy that distinguished the previous period. Before the end of his life, impoverished Rembrandt returned to a more direct and introspective style of self-portrayal.

Illustrations taken from the website: http://www.artrepublic.com/

Although Rembrandt’s work, such as Night Watch and numerous portraits of his contemporaries, are among the most famous artistic works of this period, self-portraits are distinguished by their wider significance. Art historian James Hall even believes that: “In a way, self-portraits are what makes Rembrandt famous more than his art. Copies of his early portraits were distributed everywhere, so that everyone knows what he looked like even though they never saw another work of Rembrandt’s” (Hall, 2014)

While Rembrandt sought to portray himself as closely as possible – both in the spiritual as well as in the physical sense – other great painters of selfies from later eras were replacing physical reality with imagination and allegory, or simplified it – at the same time trying to primarily depict their spiritual condition in self-portraits.

Among them is Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), the author of more than 30 self-portraits. In his letter to his sister, van Gogh wrote: “I am searching for a deeper resemblance than that which a photographer manages to achieve.”

He wrote to his brother: “… it is difficult to know oneself. But it is not easy to paint oneself. Portraits which were painted by Rembrandt are more of the viewing of nature, they are more like a revelation.”

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) represented her mental and physical pain by over-painting her broken body. Often staying alone and bedridden, Kahlo said: “I paint myself because I am often alone and because I am a model who I know best.”

This sentence largely explains the urge to make selfies. People still know themselves best, so it is not surprising that they selected themselves as models that they show and explore. Therefore, behind selfies can stand and a deeper desire for self-exploration, not only mere vanity, narcissism or the tendency of self-objectivization.

In the aforementioned International Journal of Communications no. 9 – Dr. Theresa Senft and Dr. Nancy Baym oppose the generalized opinion about selfies as a reliable indicator of narcissism and vanity.

Most young people have less need for privacy than the people of the older generations, and therefore they make more selfies and are more active on social networks. Their selfies can be a reflection of vanity, but not always – but we must consider the fact that selfies are also made by politicians in order to convey an attitude, celebrities to get closer to the fans, ordinary people who want to make someone laugh (International Journal of Communications No. 9, Baym and Senft, 2015).

Addressing the possible link between taking selfies and low self-esteem, dependency and narcissism, the authors claim that “… we have not seen a single reviewed work of scientific literature that demonstrates convincingly that the creation of selfies and mental illness are correlated.”

In other words, selfies in most cases cannot be linked to the development of mental illnesses and the desire to impose on others, but it can be linked to the need to people connect and communicate with other and convey a message to them.

Dr. Pamela Rutledge also wrote about selfies impact on everyday life on the website of “Psychology Today”: “People are social animals, governed by the need to stay connected and respected in society. We all want to be appreciated, respected and included in groups that are important to us.” In these groups, it is possible to express one’s attitude, belonging to a or the artistic gift. Selfie can help others to analyze us and better meet through the large number of photographs. It can be a tool in ensuring acceptance by those whose opinion we care about or the incentive to self-analysis. With selfies, it is possible to win or lose supporters and fans, it is possible to be yourself in real life too, or play a role. (www.psychologytoday.com, Rutledge, 2013)

Not even in the context of creating different roles and personae, selfie does not deviate too much from such form of communication applied in the art of earlier periods.

The pop-art artist Andy Warhol (1928-1987) had no desire to represent himself realistically, either in the physical or the mental sense. “Who wants the truth? That’s what business is for – to prove that it does not matter what you are, but what they think you are“, Warhol wrote in 1980.

Creating a traditional portrait in the past, and digital self-portraits – selfies today – certainly does not provide arguments for the equalization of these two processes. However, the space for analyzing similarities found in communication and interaction that is consciously or unconsciously initiated in relation to the author and the viewer. In this sense, modern technologies and global networking are a means that make this type of communication more widespread and transform it into a sort of a phenomenon.

A quantitative analysis of the hashtag #selfie on Twitter may also show us to what extent the phenomenon of selfies is widespread and which scope it has (performed by a service www.Tvitni.com). Until a decade ago, hashtag or the symbol # meant only a term that refers to phones or is marked only by the term “sharp” in the music field. All these perceptions have changed in the meantime, but this simple symbol represents one of the basic tools for communication and has grown into a phenomenon of popular culture without which the communication on online channels is almost no longer possible and is increasingly expanding in communication outside social networks.

Analysis of hashtags has been conducted for four weeks (period from November 8 2016 to September 7 2016). Research has shown that the total number of original tweets with the hashtag #selfie amounted to 199,629, while together with retweets (repetition, quotation of tweets) that number increased to 291,717. In addition, 147,584 people marked the activities with the hashtag #selfie as the content they like in this period.

The aforementioned tweets, retweets and likes comes from the 152,733 Twitter users.

However, when taking into account all users’ followers (potential reach) – we come to a remarkable fact – during less than four weeks, there were as many as 547,697,200 of them. More than half a million people were in some way involved in online activities related to the hashtag #selfie.

Since the analysis was performed only on one social network, without taking into account the media like Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat (primarily intended for sharing photos and video content) – it is clear that mobile technology and social networks played a major role in turning selfies in global social phenomenon.

 

Conclusion

Traditional and digital self-portraits are essentially formed as products of the same aspirations – to capture the moment of one’s life and to offer it to the insight and analysis of others. In this way, a self-portrait, as well as a selfie, open up the possibility of creating relationships and communication between the author and the viewer.

In the case of selfies, considering their value might choose a negative approach and interpret the popularity of this trend as a reflection of the overwhelming crisis of society. However, the angle of viewing may be similar to the attitudes presented by the Dr. Pamela Rutledge (Psychology Today – selfies: Narcissism or Self-Exploration?, Rutlidge, 2013), where it is clear that there are potential positive and constructive aspects of creating and sharing selfies. Self-analysis and understanding of one’s own identity can significantly improve a transparent and open communication with others, where viewing oneself by the eyes of others can also help in the growth and development of personality.

The result of the analysis of the representation of #selfie hashtag on Twitter says a lot about the potential power of this phenomenon. Through it, the large number of people any information can be transmitted to suggest something – or research public opinion. In other words, the real power of a selfie lies not in self-promotion, but in the promotion of an idea – and connecting people.

It remains to be monitored how this type of interaction will thrive, i.e. how the growing development of technology and the increasing digital networking will affect the communication and exchange of notions that we have about each other and ourselves.

Rembrandt had the talent and time to document his life on canvas. Most people today have none of these two preconditions – but they have the front camera on their smartphones, and an incredible number of people who they can potentially get in contact with through social networks, to present them an idea and to perceive themselves – through their eyes, and their own photo, too.

 

Literature:
1. Hall, James (2014), The Self Portrait: A Cultural History, Thames & Hudson
2. Tatomirović, Tanja (2008), Virtuelno komuniciranje u budućnosti: upotreba i zloupotreba, CM Časopis za upravljanje komuniciranjem br.7
3. Tatomirović, Tanja (2015), Hešteg kao fenomen popularne kulture, FDU Beograd, Seminarski rad
4. Warhol, Andy (1980) Popism, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Web locations:
1. Art History Archive (2007) Moffat, Charles: The Life of Frida Kahlo, http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/surrealism/Frida-Kahlo.html (02.09.2016.)
2. Art Republic (2014) Selfies and the History of Self Portraiture, http://www.artrepublic.com/articles/475-selfies-and-the-history-of-self-portraiture.html/hešteg #sthash.OcIB6Rx7.dpuf (02.09.2016.)
3. International Journal of Communication (2015) Nemer & Freeman: Empowering the Marginalized: Rethinking Selfies in the Slums of Brazil, http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/3155/1403 (03.09.2016.)
4. International Journal of Communication (2015) Senft & Baym: What Does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global Phenomenon http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/3244/1394 (03.09.2016.)
5. Oxford Dictionaries, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/portraithešteg #portrait__3 (06.09.2016.)
6. Oxford Dictionaries, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/self-portrait (06.09.2016.)
7. Oxford University Press (2013) The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013,http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/press-releases/oxford-dictionaries-word-of-the-year-2013/ (01.09.2016.)
8. Peta Pixel ( 2013) Becker, Dejvid: Pioneering Photographer Robert Cornelius Credited With World’s First Selfie c. 1839, http://petapixel.com/2013/12/05/pioneering-photographer-robert-cornelius-credited-worlds-first-selfie/ (01.09.2016.)
9. Psychology Today (2013) Rutledge, Pamela: Selfies: Narcissism or Self_Exploration? https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/positively-media/201304/selfies-narcissism-or-self-exploration (04.09.2016.)
10. Tvitni.com (2016) https://www.tvitni.com/campaign/at3PJ/mxh9Nv4 (01.09.2016.)

 

You can download this text from Academia.edu: “Self”-way communication through self-portrait

Hashtag as a popular culture phenomenon

in MY WORK

 

Hashtag-Comic

Until less than a decade ago, the symbol „#“ used to signify only a term related to phones or a sign for „sharp“ in musical notation system. Meanwhile, the perception has changed, and this simple symbol is one of the main tools of communication.This simple „#“ sign is not only a part of social media language, but also a part of everything we consume. It even changes the way the society writes and behaves since grammatically correct forms are no longer necessary today. According to research so far, short messages are 25% more interactive. Therefore, in order to send and receive messages, we do not need to use whole sentences, but only images and hashtag symbols, which confirms the visual effect domination. Nowadays, even the TV channels use hashtag to attract more viewers, widen the audience and distribute information much faster. Speed and simplicity are built in the new „hashtag culture“. Hashtag has developed from a simple social communication into a popular cultural phenomenon in a very short period of time.This trend is only a different way of using the Internet and just another possibility for posting the aimed personal content. It is possible that one day a specific obsession for hashtag as such will disappear, but until then it will continue to grow incredibly fast. The future of communication based on information technology is uncertain, because the possibilities are infinite, and the speed of development is unknown. The things that made hashtag the essential part of communication with audience in modern society are number of hashtags, number of social network users, an easy possibility to create contents that the whole world can access, mobile communication (with 80% of users of Twitter or even Instagram on mobile platforms), TV shows and advertising campaigns. This proves that a thing which started as entertainment became a part of popular culture of the modern society.                 

 

INTRODUCTION

This is the age of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. In the last five years, their popularity has grown so much that people from all branches use them, including Hollywood celebrities, famous musicians, politicians, and writers, who chose social networks as their basic means of communication.

Twitter enables its users to connect to thousands, or even millions of people at a global level, by using short messages with up to 140 characters, increasing the limit to 10,000 characters in the near future, which would change the way of communication on the social network. The world entertainment stage has accepted Twitter as means of presenting opinions and attitudes, thus providing the audience with exclusive news directly from the source. Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey, US President Barack Obama, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were the first celebrities who started using Twitter for sending quick messages and connecting with their audience. Therefore, Twitter was supported by the world famous singers, actors and presidents, and it became a particular spot for finding information, but also a popular culture phenomenon of with 284 million active users, and 500 million posts a day.[1] The pop-culture adoption of hashtags helped push hashtags into other social networks. Instagram adopted hashtags on January 27, 2011 and Facebook finally adopted hashtags on June 12, 2013.[2] The hashtag brought more than just attention, it gave even a list of people who actually engaged with someone`s story and brand. Hashtags have become more than just a simple way to categorize posts or add a narrative to the story behind.

 

RESEARCH

The purpose of this work is not to research the use of hash character in daily communication and its transformation into information source, which changed the traditional forms of communications. The aim of the research is to analyse the frequency, the way and the occasions in which the character is used and to define the role of hashtag in popular culture.

The object of this research is to understand the use of hashtag character in daily communication, trend setting and creation of popular contents.

Until less than a decade ago, the hash symbol “#” used to signify only a term related to phones or a sign for “sharp” in musical notation system. Meanwhile, the perception has changed, and this simple symbol now represents one of the main tools of communication, which has become a phenomenon of popular culture, online communication is no longer possible without it, and it has also been spreading within communication outside social networks. 

The research of hashtag as popular culture phenomenon and its use in daily communication has included the following:

Primary research:

  • Conversation/interviews with people in Serbia who are followed by a significant number of social network users (more than 5,000), and are therefore responsible for management of online contents of their own or their clients’;
  • Quantitative analysis by tools such as Topsy[3] and Tvitni.me[4] which analyse communication results on Twitter[5] social network with the analysis of hashtag characters and key words;

Secondary research:

  • The review which includes websites research, newspaper articles and blogs related to the use of hashtag character.

 

DIGITAL COMMUNICATION WORLDWIDE AND IN SERBIA

According to Merriam Webster`s Dictionary, social networks are „a kind of electronic communication (websites for social networking and microblogging) through which the users make online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other contents (such as videos)” .

Social networks are also defined as virtual, online communities which connect people who might share similar interests or activities, regardless of their location. They are interactive online services which provide pages with basic personal information, contact lists of people users can communicate with and exchange information publicly, for certain public only or in a private communication. As far as the number of users is concerned, the most popular social networks are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In 2015 the most popular social network, Facebook, has reached more than a billion users in the world, 3.4 million of which are in Serbia. The next one is Twitter, which is classified as a part of microblogs subgroup, but definitely a social network, since the communication on Twitter has become very interactive and is often in a form of a dialogue, due to status or posts which can contain a maximum of 140 characters. Facebook was started at the beginning of 2004. This web page, available to everyone, is owned and managed by the company with the same name (Facebook, Inc.). It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg while he was a student at Harvard University. Initially, the membership on the page was only allowed to Harvard students, but later it was accessible to the students from colleges which are members of the “Ivy League”. After a while, all college and high school students were granted access, and eventually, all people over 13 could become members of Facebook.

Twitter is a social network designed for micro-blogging, i.e. it is intended for sending (and reading) short messages, called tweets, by the network name. The sender can limit message delivery to his/her circle of friends only, or leave public access available to anyone (which is an assumed choice). Even though, it was used with a limit of 140 characters in each tweet until now, Twitter management announced that it was considering increasing the limit to 10,000 characters, which would change the way of communication on the social network. The so-called “Beyond 140” project, as it is called by Re / code, will allow users to tweet and tweets will continue to show standard 140 characters at the timeline, but when you click to expand the tweet, you will see a message that can contains up to 10,000 characters.[6] Twitter has lately been established socially as an important platform of public communication which is in progress in real time. Twitter was started as a platform for personal communication between different people, and as other social networks, it has frequently been used for communication between media, journalists, governments and politicians and citizens – electorate, and between companies and consumers and users.

Twitter and Facebook provide the fastest way of exchanging news through short messages, mostly with attachments such as photos or links. By reading twits on your phone or computer, you can find out current events in the world or the country and your city momentarily. When we refer to the use of Twitter in Serbia, you can find some information on Twitter first, as was the case with the earthquake in Kraljevo, fire in the National theatre, big floods in the country in spring 2014. Of course, there is some news you can follow randomly, or by hashtag, which is far easier and more usual.

Instagram is a photo-sharing app that can have some relevance to the market, especially with Facebook’s recent acquisition of the application. Having more than 27 million users, Instagram has a very active user base. Use Instagram for capturing event and office culture photos. Anybody can also leverage the application to run contests and scavenger hunts. The Instagram hashtag is a powerful feature to engage viewers. Hashtags act as keywords providing a way for people to find photos through a simple search. Hashtags are especially useful as you seek to establish your brand as an industry leader and get more followers. Implement hashtags that are unique to your brand and industry, as well as hashtags that are popular keywords.

Regardless of the type of social network, social networking is simply the amplification of emotional reactions to a topic in modern life. If there are no emotions – the communication will not be successful. The hashtag is an essential part of the emotion, because the emotion will not reach wider audience without it, or become the part of the popular contents online.[7]

During one of the last art related conferences in the USA, Marcus Romer pointed out that it has taken 38 years for the radio to reach 50 million users since its beginnings, television has had to wait for 13 years, and Facebook has achieved the same success in only two years. This proves the independence of the future of communication based on information technology, because the possibilities are infinite, and the speed of development is unknown.[8]

It is difficult not to notice, or feel in a way, the influence of social networks, especially when it comes to popular web pages/applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even Wikipedia and You Tube. Since the end of 2006, social networks has started dictating the ways of using digital technologies worldwide.

Judging by the number of Internet users; Serbia is lined up with developed European countries, even though the social end economic situation cannot measure with the environment of those countries, nor can the development of information technology. Our country, with 52% of population using social networks, is the seventh in Europe, and the first in regional area. Iceland, Norway, Malta, Denmark, Sweden and Great Britain come before Serbia, and, for example, new technologies and online shopping are much more developed in these countries than in Serbia.

Every other Serbian citizen has a profile on some of the social networks, which is more than the average 40% in Europe. Men with 54% make the majority, compared to 46% of women, also a world average. The young aged 18 to 24 are the most frequent on Facebook, there are as much as 28% of those aged 25 to 34, and people older than 65 are least present, only 1,5% of them.

Picture 1: The purpose of use of the Internet according to people in Serbia[9]

 

THE USE OF HASHTAG IN COMMUNICATION

At the beginning of 21st century, the age of short text input came together with the blooming of mobile phones and social networks popularity. Short texts demanded abbreviations and shorter time to write messages, so the acronyms which became very popular in society today developed and they started being used outside social networks.

According to the text “The history of hashtag”[10], the term „hashtag” did not come up until year 2007 when Chris Mesinae (@FactoryJoe[11]) came up with the idea of using “the hash” as a symbol of metadata strategy.

Picture 2, chris-messina-first-twitter-hashtag, Tanja Tatomirovic

Picture 2. Chris Messina`s tweet with the first officially recognized hashtag

According to tweets researches, the first time a hashtag was used extensively as a way to categorize tweets. That was adopted by the public during the San Diego fire accident on October 23, 2007, when Nate Ritter used Twitter to spread the news about the fire and included the hashtag #sandiegofire.

Picture 3 San Diego fire, Tanja Tatomirovic

Picture 3. Nate Ritter`s tweet with the first hashtag to categorize tweets

The hashtag was not popular until Twitter promoted it in 2009. The hashtag was used before every word, from one tweet to another.

Hashtag became even more popular when Twitter added the Trending Topics option, where users can see popular hashtags used worldwide. When Instagram, which now has more than 200 million users and is one of the most frequently used applications for photo exchange, appeared in 2010, tha hashtag enabled people worldwide to share photos and connect to other users of the same interests.

With almost no limitations, the hashtags make users’ interaction easier. All you need is to put the symbol “#” in front of the word, and when you look for that precise word, all relating information and activities will be shown. This way, the hashtag becomes a certain “hub” (signifying the centre of an activity, topic or interest[12]) for an infinite number of topics around the world, thus enabling the user not only to follow the topic of interest but also to build it up by sharing familiar information and give contribution to information exchange. This way, the user simultaneously participates in setting trends related to films, music, politics or other areas, not necessarily events from modern life, but also those from the past.

The trend has been set with Throwback Thursday[13] hashtag. The origin of the term is unknown and almost impossible to find, and people might have used it before. This is how hashtag developed into a popular culture phenomenon simply and quickly.

Throwback Thursday signifies posting photos from the past, taken decades, years or months ago. #TBT on Twitter is a symbol related to any contents connected to the past, whether it is music, film, technological development or other topics. This confirms the fact that hashtag is not only a phenomenon related to modern trends exclusively, but it also enables finding and following trends which used to be popular long before it appeared. This represents a special opportunity to make people remember and find out about other values by means of social networks, which are the most available, most massive channel of communication of the 21st century with the fastest penetration recorded.

During the week, people post hashtags such as Man Crush Monday (#MCM) i Woman Crush Wednesday (#WCW). The days (Monday and Wednesday) give users an opportunity to post photos of people they admire, whether they are important for them personally or are simply celebrities. These hashtags are not as popular as #TBT, but they are certainly some kind of a trend judging by hundreds of millions of posts.

There is “Transformation Tuesday”, where users post two photos next to each other representing a kind of transformation or a makeover. For example, those who lost a lot of weight would post a photo before loss of weight next to their latest photo and hashtag it as #TransformationTuesday.

There is a Flashback Friday (#FBF) with the same concept as Throwback Thursday. Selfie Sunday is a trend of posting photos, selfies that users took, and so on.

For example, hashtag #80 enables us to get back to the past, and instead of browsing the Internet and using different theme pages, we get a full review of the pop culture of the eighties in one place. In 30 days (24/11-24/12/2014) there were 45,278 statuses related to the topic on Twitter and analysed with Topsy service, most of which are related to music (Duran Duran, Bananarama), and then those related to slang, questions about art, memories of different popular games of the decade, and so on.

 

Popularization of hashtag and how international celebrities influence the acceptance of the new communication trend and further development

The course of communication theory in two steps (also known as Model of multilevel course by Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz) is a theory based on a study from 1940 on a social influence which states that media effects are indirectly established by a leader personally influencing the opinion. Most people gain variety of information second hand under the influence of media and leaders who create public opinion, and this can explain the progress of a simple “#” symbol into a popular culture phenomenon.

Even though this theory is directly connected to spreading ideas, it can also be applied to trend spreading. Trends otherwise appear in mass media, but when a celebrity or someone people look up to start following them, they become popular with the general population. Just as any other trend in our society, it was popularized by celebrities, and the others simply started following it.

In year 2010, for example, a reality show star Kim Kardashian started a series of Throwback Thursday photos on Twitter and Instagram. She was one of the first celebrities to use weekly hashtags, and people started following her, as in other things she does. Until last year, it was one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram.

So far, more than 293 million photos on Instagram have been hashtagged as #TBT and more than 45 million as #throwbackthursday, according to Instagram data. The fact that a reality show star is meritorious for the popularity of the trend and that her posts on Twitter are followed by more than 28 million people undoubtedly shows the way society works. Things we do, wear, watch, the music we listen to are largely influenced by celebrities and other well-known people on social networks.

Hashtag, selfie (a photo we take of ourselves) and similar terms are words added to a group of 150 new words and definitions in Merriam – Webster Collegiate dictionary in 2014 which is now available in printed and online form at Merriam-Webster.com. These recently accepted terms show the growing influence technology has on people’s behaviour, especially those connecting on social networks, which they used to do in direct communication before (live).

In time, hashtag evolved into a form that enables humour, black humour, puns or even poetry. At the same time, Twitter corporation recognized the power of hashtag, which has now become a part of a design, slang and advertising slogans on this social network.

Hashtag has also been adopted outside Twitter, which proves that it has really become a popular culture phenomenon, spreading to other communication platforms. The famous USA rap singer Kanye West popularized the phrase “hashtag rap” a few years ago when he was describing the hip-hop rhyme pattern older than Twitter, which reminds of a way hashtag compresses comparisons.

Hashtag in music does seem similar to chorus, and it also has something in common with the brackets, since it gives additional explanation or qualifies whichever phrase it ends.

Today, hashtag characters are everywhere. They are seen in commercials, on T-shirts, websites, in TV programmes, and even in the news.

Hashtags are important for modern popular cultures because they are used so widely that they came over the generation gap, and some companies started trying them and using them a few years ago.

First of all hashtags are important for popular culture today because they are so widely used. In only a few years’ time, they managed to transform from a completely new concept into a world social trend used by millions of people. The use has not been limited to social networks such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, since hashtags are now present in all media types.

There is a video[14] in which USA stars Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon are mocking hashtags, and the video shows how much they are really used in today’s culture. The hashtags are widely used in lots of different contexts of everyday life and speech, and their value as phenomenon cannot simply be ignored by the society.

 

SURVEY AND STATISTICS: Popular Serbian Hashtags and the meaning of Hashtag to vivid users in Serbia

Digital communication is something that began as fun and became a part of popular culture of contemporary society and part of the usual course of business. Communication on digital channels, without additional effort or integrated campaigns and broader strategy, enables interaction, but not necessarily the audience feedback of equal intense, who may click on the content, or expand the information, but may not buy the product or get to the event only because the content communicated on the social network is likeable and appealing as presented on the social network or another digital channel of communication. Social networking is, simply, the amplification of emotional reactions towards the institution or company that handles the communication with the audience on these networks. If there is no emotion, there is no success in communication, even if you use the hashtag you organise your communication or make it more available.[15]

According to a survey of a few people who are active on social networks, first of all those who have more than five thousand followers on Twitter (number of followers on 01/17/2016, provided by Tvitni.me analytics service) and at the same time deal with social networks in their daily work or provide advertising services or relationships with so-called “online community” to its customers, the answers to a question “What is a hashtag to you?” were similar, which confirms the fact that hashtag has become a tool for choosing or creating information:

  • Social media user 1, number of followers 6.315: „HASHTAG is a place where journalists and editors make sure they have not missed anything interesting on a Line[16] and where they can, by a simple click, get information which will turn up in headlines tomorrow!”
  • Social media user 2, number of followers 12.638: „HASHTAG is a way to avoid the so called information overload. The optimists say there is no such thing as information overload, only bad filters. HASHTAG is a filter, through which you follow things important to you. Here is an example: #ACTAtalks #kojesledeci #onokad.
  • Social media user 3, number of followers 11.293: “The unavoidable sign for searching closely related words which refer to Twitter communication of the people in niche.”
  • Social media user 4, number of Twitter followers 14.955: „HASHTAG is a combination of ASCII characters which follow the hash (#) without space and punctuation, our letters and so on. They are used to “filter” the contents on Twitter depending on whether you want to see it or not. Searching by hashtag you can see the contents of all messages containing the hashtag or you can add the tag into the filter and not be able to see in your timeline anything containing the hashtag. In general, there are two types of hashtags, one is a general hashtag, you can tag a link, or if you want to mark a photo you can put (#pic), or if it is funny (#lol), or sexual (#nsfw). On the other hand, there are “unique” (if possible) hashtags which are used to follow only one topic. For example, #utisak is related to a TV show “Utisak nedelje” (The Impression of the week), and not to an impression of yours…“
  • Social media user 5, number of Twitter followers 10.431: „I like hashtags, because when I get lost on Twitter, they help me find where it all started and what people talk about. If I do not like the topic, I can choose not to follow it. Hashatgs complete the twits, and I like that.”
  • Social media user 6, number of followers: 9.183: „HASHTAG is an easy way to group all tweets related to a topic that interests you.”
  • Social media user 7, number of Twitter followers 8.170: „An easy way for marking and finding topics on Twitter, as well as an excellent advertising tool for online promotions.“

 

As one of the interviewed people mentioned, a hashtag can be general, and it can also refer to a concrete topic spoken of online. This is the case with a hashtag „utisak“ (influence) which refers to a certain Serbian TV show. For the chosen 30 days (from 08/01 to 08/02/2015) the hashtag „utisak“ was repeated for 2,298 times on Twitter.

Picture 4. Monthly statistics for hashtag utisak, Tanja Tatomirovic

Picture 4. Monthly statistics for hashtag #utisak (Topsy.com), from 08/01 to 08/02/2015

This show was during its broadcast as popular on Twitter as it was on TV, but the filtration by hashtag made it possible for users of the social network to follow the show, and without limitations make comments, ask questions and often get answers in the TV show. This example shows the phenomenon of hashtag in communication today and in popular culture, where a TV show gains another parallel life on an online channel, which was not generated by the author of the show herself, but by the audience.

Besides media, journalists or public events, hashtag is also used in private statuses on Twitter – tweets. There are some popular hashtags in Serbian, chosen as the most popular based on the analytical service Tvitni.me in February 2015, which are used to communicate users’ moods or attitudes:

  • #onokad (#likewhenyou) is one of the most frequent hashtags in Serbia, as a prefix to sentences which state an opinion, mood, attitude or emotion;
  • #mrzimzimu (I hate winter) is one of the hashtags where people state their feelings toward the season, and it can also be related to clothes, road safety, weather forecast or anything related to a negative attitude to winter conditions. Similar hashtags are #uinatzimi (in spite of winter) or #uinatsnegu (in spite of snow) and so on, and by using them, groups of like-minded people are formed, or people with the same attitude to winter, or so;

In Serbia, in social networks communication the hashtag #uticaj (influence) is also popular, and in the beginning it only related to “marking” the users of Twitter with a large number of followers. Today it is being used as a mark for an achieved goal which implicates wide consequences in the community, regardless of the area it refers to.

The audience in Serbia is still immature, although the social networks, the blogs and all that “digital scene” are not of short life and is not new to Serbian market. However, the digital communication and the communication in general, should not be “playing it safe” and go only for the “safe options” – the well-known questions and answers. It must evolve and capitalize on the opportunities of development of the social networks in order to reach more information about the customers and their preferences, to learn more from them, to have them surprised, shocked, inspiring them or simply leading them to the goal. Such communication management on the social media means not only to connect, but also to bring the audience to a new level of engagement, which is based on the direct dialogue and transparent relationship. Serbian digital users cannot, although we still do, use the digital communication capabilities as the mere “digital bulletin boards” and for the simple expression of undefined emotions through the use of the “like”, the “share” or the “sticker” or even “hashtag”. [17]

 

CONCLUSION

Today, the symbol “#” does not only represent a part of the social network language, but it is also a part of everything we consume. Actually, the symbol even changes the way the society writes and behaves, because grammatically correct forms are no longer necessary. Everything boils down to a possibility to attract as much audience as possible by using the shortened texts.

According to research so far that Kissmetric service[18] announced, shorter messages are 25% more interactive. Therefore, in order to send and receive messages, we do not need to use whole sentences, but only images and hashtag symbols, which confirms the visual effect domination. Nowadays even the TV channels use hashtag characters to attract more viewers, widen the audience and distribute information much faster. According to research results on this analytical website, pictures get 53% more likes and 84% more clicks than exclusively text messages, so the media which are consumed fast have the advantage, and that is an inevitable trend when it comes to brand development and advertising campaigns.

Hashtags are interesting cultural meme“, says Jonah Berger, the author of the book “Contagious: Why Things Catch On” and a marketing professor at the University of Pensilvania. They started as useful and applicable, but evolved so much that now they represent cultural phenomenon and give you the impression of being well-informed. Therefore, this is what we do: now we hashtag everything.”

Regardless of the type of social network, social networking is simply the amplification of emotional reactions to a topic in modern life. If there are no emotions – the communication will not be successful. The hashtag is an essential part of the emotion, because the emotion will not reach wider audience without it, or become the part of the popular contents online.

Speed and simplicity are implemented in the new „hashtag culture”. Hashtag has developed from a simple social communication tool into a popular cultural phenomenon in a very short period of time.

This trend is only a different way of using the Internet and just another possibility for posting the aimed personal content. It is possible that one day a specific obsession for hashtag as such will disappear, but until then it will continue to grow incredibly fast.

The things that made hashtag the essential part of communication with audience in modern society are number of hashtags, number of social network users, an easy possibility to create contents that the whole world can access, mobile communication (with 80% of users of Twitter on mobile platforms18), TV shows and advertising campaigns, which also made it even more popular. This proves that a thing which started as entertainment became a part of popular culture of the modern society.

 *******

 

[1] Twitter, About the company – https://about.Twitter.com/company

[2] Marketing Land – http://marketingland.com

[3] Topsy: www.topsy.com, online service that searched and analysed data from Twitter, worked until December 2015, now integrated to Apple search services

[4] Tvitni.me: www.tvitni.me, online Twitter analytic service, created in Serbia

[5] Twitter: www.twitter.com, social network

[6] Perlberg S., (2016), CMO Today: Twitter Weighs 10,000-Character Tweets, The wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/cmo-today-twitter-weighs-10-000-character-tweets-1452084097

[7] Tatomirovic T., (2015), Ako nema emocije, nema ni uspeha u komunikaciji, Marketing mreža, http://marketingmreza.rs/ukoliko-nema-emocije-nema-ni-uspeha-u-komunikaciji/ (If there is no emotion, there is no success in communication! – Marketing Network Portal)

[8] Tatomirović T., (2008), Virtuelno komuniciranje u budućnosti: upotreba i zloupotreba, CM Časopis za upravljanje komuniciranjem, 7/2008, 103-112. (Virtual communication in future: use and misuse, CM Magazine for communication management)

[9] The use of informational and communicational technologies in the Republic of Serbia 2014, Republican Bureau of Statistics, http://webrzs.stat.gov.rs/WebSite/repository/documents/00/01/50/47/ICT2014s.pdf

[10] Twitter: www.twitter.about.com

[11] Names with „@“ prefix are names and/or nicknames of the users of Twitter

[12] The Free Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/hub

[13] Knibbs K. (2015), Digital trends, http://www.digitaltrends.com/users/kateknibbs/

[14] Justin Timberlake`s and Jimmy Fallon`s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57dzaMaouXA

[15] Tatomirovic T., Jugoslovensko dramsko pozorište na društvenim mrežama, Teatron – časopis za pozorišnu umetnost, 172-173/2015, 83-93,

[16] Line – slang, signifies the course of communication on Twitter

[17] Tatomirovic T., (2015), „Ako nema emocije, nema ni uspeha u komunikaciji“, Marketing mreža, http://marketingmreza.rs/ukoliko-nema-emocije-nema-ni-uspeha-u-komunikaciji  (“If there is no emotion, there is no success in communication!” – Marketing Network)

[18] Kissmetrics, social media analytic service: www.Kissmetrics.com

 

LITERATURE

  • Arts Council England, Digital audiences: Engagement with arts and culture online, 2010.
  • Berger J., Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Simon & Schuster, 2013.
  • Thomas, L.,Twitter at the office social eyes, Journal of Web Librarianship, 2010.
  • Tatomirović T., Virtuelno komuniciranje u budućnosti: upotreba i zloupotreba, CM Časopis za upravljanje komuniciranjem, 7/2008, 103-112, Protokol Novi Sad – Fakultet političkih nauka Beograd, 2008.
  • Tatomirovic T., Ako nema emocije, nema ni uspeha u komunikaciji, Marketing mreža, http://marketingmreza.rs/ukoliko-nema-emocije-nema-ni-uspeha-u-komunikaciji/ (If there is no emotion, there is no success in communication! – Marketing Network Portal), 2015.
  • Tatomirovic T., Jugoslovensko dramsko pozorište na društvenim mrežama, Teatron – časopis za pozorišnu umetnost, 172-173/2015, 83-93, Muzej pozorišne umetnosti Beograd, 2015.
  • Upotreba informaciono-komunikacionih tehnologija u Republici Srbiji, Republički zavod za statistiku, 2014. http://webrzs.stat.gov.rs/WebSite/repository/documents/00/01/50/47/ICT2014s.pdf
  • Zappavigna M., Discourse of Twitter and Social Media: How We Use Language to Create Affiliation on the Web – Continuum Discourse, Continuum Publishing Corporation, 2012.

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