Social media has changed everything. The massive collection of human voices on social media sites has a powerful impact on how we view the world and has shifted how quickly we share information. If someone wants to know what you had for lunch, all they need to do is click the Instagram app and – bam! – there’s the most artistic ham sandwich you’ve ever seen and, of course, it’s filtered for effect. For the next 10 minutes, all you can think about is how delicious a ham sandwich would be.
The wide-ranging impact this aggregation of human interaction has on communication is just beginning to unfurl. Recent controversy surrounding how the government monitors that information has given some perspective on how much of personal data is out in the digital ether. Twitter has become a locus for political furor in the Middle East, playing a key role in the collapse of several regimes. While in the U.S., social media has rocked major figures, in cases such as Paula Deen’s recent controversy over racist language, and Mitt Romney’s use of the phrase “binders full of women.” Social media has the power to build up and the power to tear down.
Locally, the dawn of the social era has brought together the giant, consolidated mass of land known as Duval County/Jacksonville. Now, it doesn’t matter if one is living in Marietta or Avondale, Ortega or Jacksonville Beach – you can easily find out what is going on where. Local musicians and entrepreneurs have taken to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to cheaply advertise their talents and products, without having to go through a third-party to do so. The ease of communication has allowed food trucks to flourish and local DJs to promote their upcoming events to wider audiences than could have ever been reached 10 years ago.
One of the most powerful forces driving this integration of the disparate communities of NE Florida has been hashtagging. By tagging posts and photos, social sites automatically create an assemblage of data.
Let’s take a leap into the world of hashtagging to reveal how powerful this force has been in NE Florida, and see the beauty and diversity of our community revealed.
The ubiquitous hash, also known as the pound sign and the number sign, has become the common currency in organizing subjects on most social sites – such as Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and recently Facebook (much to the chagrin of non-hashtag using FB users). The humble hashtag transformed how we view and share ideas and media. The hashtag weaves together information from various users who, otherwise, may not know each other in the real world. It also organizes a conversation. For instance, a post of a taco could have the hashtag #taco and it would join hundreds of thousands of other taco posts. However, make that tag more specific, like #TacoLu, and your photo becomes part of the TacoLu hashtag collection. By tagging the photo, others can browse the site and uncover unique aspects about the subject they’re interested in.
Locally, there are several hashtags that anyone with a Twitter or Instagram account is familiar with. These hashtags have had an enormous impact on how one views NE Florida. Some have sprung up organically, others have been pushed by outside forces, all are used by the thousands on a daily basis.
So take out your phone and follow along, as we further explore the power of the hashtag.
Inspired by the JAX2025 community visioning initiative, Mayor Alvin Brown decided to leverage the excitement surrounding the report to gather insight on what Jacksonville citizens love (and hate) about the community. “We designed More of This, Less of That to be a user-friendly opportunity that empowers people to more effectively share their opinions on what works – and what doesn’t – in Jacksonville,” said Mayor Brown, “We are excited that this will be a great, 21st Century-minded tool to initiate important discussions and engage residents.”
Rather than letting a committee or survey find out what citizens love most about their city, the Mayor’s Office recognized the importance of letting the people speak. “This program takes the pulse of the community and helps to build a dialogue about Jacksonville’s strengths and opportunities for improvement,” Mayor Brown explains.
Browsing the #MoreOfThis hashtag on Instagram, one finds beautiful public art installations, Go Skate Day extravaganza at Hemming Plaza, the Food Truck Competition, the Jacksonville Jazz Fest and many other cultural events that happen around the city. The #LessOfThat hashtag reveals the ugly side of Jacksonville, such as abandoned buildings, sprawling shopping centers and poor urban planning.
What do you like about Jacksonville? What would you like to see change? Now is your chance to join the conversation and get your voice heard in way that is not just through the ballot box or elected officials. Take a photo – share on Instagram, Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and be heard.
The #ilovejax hashtag has over 10,000 posts on Instagram. The #ilovejax movement began as a JAX Chamber initiative in October 2011 after the Innovate Northeast Florida project preliminary identified the region’s self-image as a key area for improvement. According to a Chamber press release, “The media attention surrounding the JAX region’s need to regain its ‘swagger’ helped launch #ilovejax naturally and contributed to its momentum and interest on Facebook and Twitter.”
The purpose of the hashtag was to instill pride into the region and show the world why Jacksonville is such a dynamic and exciting place. Whether it’s Lemon Bar on a Saturday, NFL football on Sunday, fishing on a Tuesday morning, hunting on the Westside, surfing at the pier or going to an art gallery Downtown, there is plenty to love about Jacksonville and the reasons are only growing.
The Chamber recognizes that the #ilovejax hashtag will evolve and has said “Regardless of the medium where the name is used, it represents the ongoing conversation about what makes the JAX region dynamic.” The end goal is that if the Jacksonville community feels good about the city and region, it will positively impact how others outside of our region feel, which improves our ability to attract businesses, jobs and investment, thereby the entire economy.
Is this a conversation you want to be left out of?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the single most important and recognizable entities in the region. They also have a massive presence online. Between their Facebook page, Instagram profile and Twitter account, the Jaguars reach hundreds of thousands of people.
For the past few years, the Jaguars have used brief, hashtag-able phrases that have become the common thread drawing fan posts together. This year, Jaguar Nation is told to #StandUnited. Last year, they were #AllIn. These hashtags not only unify the fan base online, they make it easier for everything Jaguars to be stored on these sites, giving one the chance to reminisce over past games and tailgates or stoke the flames for the upcoming season.
Twitter is home to some of the loudest and most passionate Jaguars fans around. Be sure to join the conversation and begin using the appropriate tag. This may be the beginning to Jaguars truly standing united. By joining in a greater conversation, Jaguars fans across the country can engage with one another. This has never been more apparent than over the recent Tebow controversy. When the national media kept forcing Jacksonville to have a conversation about the beleaguered quarterback, Jags fans lashed on social media, showing the world how rabid the fan base really is.
If you have not joined the Jaguars conversation, get going and #StandUnited.
The #igersjax hashtag is the unofficial hashtag of Instagrammers in Jacksonville. With over 28,000 tags, #igersjax is the perfect way to gain insight into the beauty of Jacksonville.
The official curator of the #igerjax hashtag is the IGersJAX Instagram profile. The owners of the profile carefully examine the archived gallery and pick out the photos they find most personify the unique aspects of the city. If you have yet to join Instagram, the IGersJAX Facebook profile posts every photo that they share on their Instagram profile. Although, in this case you are missing out on browsing the whole gallery of #igersjax photography. This gallery contains some of the most breathtaking images of the city as people from all over the city contribute their images. From aerial shots, to sunsets, festivals to nature preserves, the #igersjax hashtag reveals all that is beautiful about NE Florida.
Next photo you take, be sure to tag it #igersjax and join the visual conversation with thousands of others who find beauty in this city.
The hashtag is meaningless unless someone participates. The hashtag only works in a social context. It has the power to transform communities and to define the narrative Jacksonville tells about itself to the world. It forces those on the outside to take a closer look at our city, to see why we love Jax, what we want more of, why we stand united, and what makes this community so unique. Social media unites and brings together all of the different aspects of Jacksonville and proudly tell why NE Florida is so special. This may just be the single most powerful symbol in this day and age – and it’s up to you how you use it.
This article was written for Void’s July Social Media issue by Guy Barnhart