Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Out of all the ridiculous trends to spring forth and take the earth by storm, hashtags are one of my least favorite. Don't get me wrong. There is a time and a place for hashtags, and we'll cover that in this blog post, but the vast majority are completely ridiculous. Take this made-up example of typical hashtag (ab)use: "I can't sleep!!! #theresaspiderundermybed" With that in mind, let's examine what is so wrong about this.

Why did hashtags even come about in the first place? The hashtag is a way to make content easily searchable. It is essentially identifying a keyword that connects it with related content so that one can search for that keyword and find numerous posts that connect with that same idea. It allows us as human beings to fill 2 needs--to find belonging, because we have joined ourselves to all the others who have posted on the same subject, as well as to have our voice be heard, in that we have now contributed our two cents worth. This isn't necessarily evil.

Now, however, things have gotten out of hand. Hashtags are meant to connect your content to others' as well as to make it easily searchable--and therefore hashtags should be used things that will be searched. In our example above, the person has for some reason decided to take an entire phrase and turn it into a hashtag, possibly thinking, as one of my roommates said, that it's a concise way to express your thoughts and opinions. Internet, let me educate you: #theresaspiderundermybed is less, not more, concise than "There's a spider under my bed." English writing has evolved with word breaks. That's the way we write. It's not the way the whole world writes, but it is the way we write in English. Therefore, itisharderforanenglishreadertoreadsomethingwithnocapitalizationandnospaces than to read a normal sentence that contains the normal breaks. Getting rid of spaces just makes your thought less accessible--exactly the opposite of what hashtags are intended to do.

What's more, the person has created a hashtag out of thin air. He or she has arbitrarily put his or her thought into a hashtag. Let me tell you something: no one is ever going to search for theresaspiderundermybed. Really. And if they do, it likely won't be to see your thought that you can't sleep. If you want to use #sharegoodness, go right ahead. That's a recognizable trend. Your thought actually connects and adds to the collection (as long as it actually is a good thing, of course) and therefor makes sense. But creating a completely new and arbitrary hashtag is pointless--and it doesn't get you any more internet points if you add a dozen of them. It actually gets you more internet points to add one legitimate hashtag than a dozen random phrases with a pound sign in front.

And if that weren't bad enough, then we decided to move hashtags beyond the internet. We started using them in speech--newsflash people: your spoken words aren't, as of yet, searchable. Using a hashtag in spoken language just identifies you as an internet junkie. Listen to yourselves, people. Saying hashtag in front of what you are going to say only wastes your breath. It doesn't make you cool, hip, or trendy. It is only trendy on the internet, because trends are exactly what hashtags are about on the internet. Last week, Brigham Young University's campus newspaper, The Universe, had printed hashtags on teasers to articles listed at the top of the front page. I have lost what respect I had for the paper.

Most of all humans recognize that even good things become detrimental when taken to the extreme. Please, let us wake up and realize that hashtags have become that way, and stop the madness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Hobbit

Before reading this post, please note the following disclaimer: I haven't, as of writing, actually seen any of the three movies in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy. This is based on what I've gleaned from the chatter, both on the interwebs and personal communication.

The Hobbit trilogy is not the abomination everyone makes it out to be.

Now, hear me out. Those of you who know me well realize that I'm a staunch advocate of books over their derivative film adaptations. Books allow our imagination to see things however we want to based on the limited description provided by the author. Our minds are unfettered--for the most part--by visual and audio representations of the textual work. Which means that we get to take part in the creative experience with the author. Movies we just experience what the creators give to us, because the experience is at once visual and auditory. Which means that for the creative mind, a book will always be superior to a movie. It was true for the Lord of the Rings movies. They are still the top three movies on my list--which probably needs some updating, but not a lot, since I've been home--but they aren't as good as the books. It is also very true for the Hobbit movies, I'm sure.

However, there is a key difference that is apparent between the book and the movies. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is fun-story fantasy. The Hobbit by Peter Jackson is epic fantasy. (If you're confused, see here) Everyone complains about how Peter Jackson put all these different things that aren't in the book into the movies. There's a lot to be said about that. It's quite true. A lot of that stuff isn't in the books at all. That doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't things that could have happened. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is a bedtime story--not to be told in one sitting, but a bedtime story. As you read the novel, it becomes apparent that is so. As such, there are all kinds of holes and details that could be fleshed out--but this is fun-story fantasy so there's no need to. It in fact doesn't deserve to all be written in--that's part of what keeps it at the fun-story level. Peter Jackson took the liberty of fleshing out the story and turning it into an epic. Does that mean every addition is OK? Not necessarily. I'm sure I'll have my fair share of complaints when I see the movies. But I can now approach them with the right mind-set.

If you are looking to the trilogy of movies as representations of the book, you will come away sorely disappointed. Simply the fact that it's a trilogy of full-length films can tell you that. However, if you can separate them from each other a little bit and recognize that the films are a epic fantasy rendering of the fun-story fantasy novel, the changes and additions begin to make sense.