Digital Sociology: Hashtags & Social Networks

Before we begin our research on hashtags, we must understand the power of social networks and how that affects and is affected by the independent social acts of individuals.


  1. The 3 minute video below What is a hashtag? explains how people wanting to market a brand use hashtags, you can also observe certain political and oppression socialization at work. This video was made with an online free video editing tool called
  2. Most don't recognize how subtle online racism can be. The hand used in the scribed video is white. I could as easily have been black or brown , if that option exists on the platform. Whether it does or doesn't, the fact that it's a male hand and not a female hand speaks to a kind of heteronormativity of the programmers of digital media sites. Most are white and Asian men. What ethnicity or race do you assume the hand represents? Furthermore, does the voiceover by the female voice signify a race or ethnicity?
  3. At 1:18, the video explores the hashtag #ThankYouMom. Could this hashtag point to oppression socialization via families and through American identity? Who calls there mother "MOM" might help you think about differences and who's missing and how people who don't normally say "MOM" are socialized to conform to a norm.
  4. #ThankYouMeMaw or #ThankYouUmmi is very different.

  5. Hashtags can help us rethink our sociological imagination but it takes work to see beyond your own ethnocentrism. Just in case you're thinking...but not out loud or to my face...You're taking this too seriously, Dr. Gaunt.
  6. "It's just a hashtag, stfu!"

  7. Online racism, sexism, and xenophobia is part of the political and oppression socialization now happening on social media platforms. Some do it blatantly. Others subtly. And yes I can lighten up for a minute.
  8. Watch this sketch by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake and laugh at the way hashtags are used in conversations when they are made oral instead of limited to text:
  9. "#Hashtag" with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
  10. Back to more serious things.
  11. Big Think [YouTube video]: Nicholas Christakis

  12. If You're So Free, Why Do You Follow Others? The Sociological Science Behind Social Networks and Social Influence.
  13. In lieu of a reading assignment, please watch this 55 minute video (below) on understanding social networks, how larger structures transcend individual desires. Social networks are precursors to social movements. Studying how they work helps us develop our sociological imagination in digital networks and social media.
  14. Nicholas Christakis: The Sociological Science Behind Social Networks and Social Influence
  15. Christakis argues in this hour long video about social networks, that individual acts are actually functions of social structures. Social structures can be studied through suicide notes and finding insights from research on how individuals are embedded in networks that affect their agency.
  16. Agency refers to the "capacity of individuals to act independently" of social structures (James and James 2008, 9). A better way to think of agency is that we are independent yet social actors in a particular context or setting. Without the structure of a setting or region like the United States or Twitter, you would not know how to behave normally and could perhaps do whatever you want. But human beings cannot do whatever you want. There's an old expression from the 1930s that comes to me "I'm free, white, and 21" which somehow implied you had no constraints. But if you truly had no constraints there would be no need to make such an announcement.
  17. We live in social networks and require a capacity to act independent from and within those networks.
  18. Structure + Agency.

  19. How people are organized in networks matters. We look at agency (micro) and structure (macro) to understand them. Watch the 2 min video for more.
  20. TRANSITION: Hashtags -- agency and structure

  21. How do you think the networks of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and movement evolved? And could you study it back to its origins on Twitter. The answer is yes. But how?
  22. A question we might explore is how is a particular hashtag functioning as both an individual act of agency and as a social act shaped by political and/or oppression socialization?