Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hashtag Training

Critical Thinking is one of my favorite skills to work on in my writing classes. I love to see my students question the things they read, do unprompted research on subjects, notice tiny details in an image, and break down arguments. A lot of times, though, they don't want to read or they don't have the time to really read as closely as they should and they miss the main point of the reading.

For example, I often assign Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," which is a deeply disturbing short story. Knowing that most of the class probably didn't read the story, I always have them listen to an audio version of the story and answer questions as they listen in class. When the last line of the story--which is like a punch in the gut--is read, I love to watch their faces to see which ones didn't read the story the night before and it sinks in that this lottery is not one that involves choosing the correct numbers on your Powerball ticket and it is not one anybody really wants to win.

Thanks to the joys of social media, I've learned that there are a lot of people out there who aren't investing much time in critical reading or thinking outside of the classroom, either. Almost any piece of satire shared on Facebook has countless comments from people who took the article seriously. My most favorite example of this, though, comes about thanks to everybody's favorite punctuation--the hashtag.

It's no secret to long time readers of the blog that training is a big part of my life with Barley and Rye. We've spent countless hours doing reactive dog training, agility training, and basic manners training. I also take a lot of pictures of the pets during these sessions (because really what better way is there to practice a stay than to have to pose while I take 10,000 versions of the same picture). I don't use as many hashtags as most people do on Instagram, but occasionally an agility picture will turn out better than expected or we'll reach a reactive dog training goal and I'll add in #training to the post. Like this one:

A photo posted by Beth (@eedevore) on

One day over the summer, I noticed that I was getting a lot of people with fitness-related handles or profile pictures of people lifting weights or doing kickboxing liking my posts and following my account. I was a little confused because the majority of my Instagram posts are books, beers, a sleeping cat, a sleeping dog, a dog with a toy, a dog with a treat--not necessarily things that suggest I spend a lot of time in the gym. But I know that a lot of fit people love dogs, so I just figured they must have needed a break from fitness posts and searched for dog-related posts.

Then I posted this picture.


Someone commented on it with an invitation to try out a Crossfit gym if I was in Arizona because I would find a lot of people just like me. While I try to reply to every comment, I had no response to that. Crossfit is pretty much the last type of physical activity I want to do, so I'm pretty sure that I would find people I had very little in common with there (although I appreciate the invitation--but if I change my mind, I'll check out the gym in the plaza with our agility gym instead of going to AZ).

After a second of confusion, I realized that #training must be the reason all of these healthy people were following me and liking my pictures. I'm relatively certain that particular Instagram user never looked at the picture and certainly didn't read the caption (because as the caption states I'm almost as far from AZ as you can get). It made me wonder how often this happens to other people. These are real accounts with real posts--not just spammers or scams to get more followers--so I wonder if they realize these #training posts aren't exactly what they thought they'd be seeing when they search through them. Every single time it happens, it makes me chuckle, so I hope that these bodybuilders and soul cyclers keep finding us--but I also hope they genuinely like Barley and Rye and aren't just liking any picture with #training because my girls are definitely worth liking!

Have you ever had surprising accounts find your Instagram posts? (On a semi-related note, recently a former contestant from the Bachelor liked one of my dog pictures--that made me laugh, too!)

8 comments:

  1. That's too funny! People only half pay attention when they're reading things, but you would think a photo of a dog would be a strong clue about what you were referring to! I can't think of anything specific but I see that a lot, people only half read a post or barely even look at the photo. But why would you take the time to comment if you can't even take the time to read the whole thing? At least you know your hashtags are doing what they're supposed to - getting more attention to your posts, and you're even branching out into new groups of people! :)
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. It always amuses me when I see this happen, so I hope the people who see my silly girls are equally amused when the come upon our posts--even if it wasn't what they originally expected when they searched the hashtag :)

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  2. We've just joined IG and are learning about the joys of hashtags. I've been keeping mine very specific - such as #ramblethenekkiddog or #baronthefriesianstallion - just to avoid attracting the wrong folks. LOL!

    Monty, Harlow, and Ramble

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    1. Haha! That definitely makes it easy to find your posts and #ramblethenekkiddog is super cute :)

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  3. We love Instagram, but haven't really found the secret. Videos seem to be a big draw we have a lot of different hashtags, some are better than others. We use a lot, or a few depending on our moods. Most people these days don't pay a lot of attention to detail which I think is why they like and comment as they do.

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    1. It seems like I get the same amount of interaction with or without hashtags--hashtags just bring new people to the posts instead of the people that usually like them, so I'm usually too lazy to come up with too many :)

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  4. I'm not on Instagram enough to notice much of anything. And I honestly don't really get how the whole hashtag thing works. I would think though that they would realize you were talking about training goals when you use that tag, given that you have a picture of your dogs.

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    1. I actually teach a class that covers the different functions of the hashtag, so I totally get how confusing it can be :) It is funny to see the different types of audiences they reach, though!

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