These Hashtags Didn't Start How You Think They Did

by Mikaela Gilbert-Lurie

Technology is miraculous. Doctors can perform surgery with tiny robots now; I'm pretty sure there's some sort of hover car that's happening; and now there's this: Who Tweeted It First, aka #FirstTweet, is a search engine that rifles through all of Twitter to find the first use of a given hashtag. You can type any hashtag, keyword, or link into the search engine, and it will be able to tell you who used it first. Just try to tell me that that isn't amazing.

#FirstTweet was created by Amit Agarwal, the blogger and Wall Street Journal technology columnist who started "Digital Inspiration," a technology and software how-to site. #FirstTweet operates through Agarwal's other site,, which boasts all of his Google app scripts. What's a Google app script? It sounds fancy, but it's actually pretty easy to understand: It's basically lightweight coding for applications that operates using Google Cloud, as opposed to an outside client. #FirstTweet, for example, is a Google app script.

But that's enough tech speak for now.

Because I'm a responsible journalist, I'm utilizing this technology for good (read: my own amusement) and researching how some of the hashtags that we've come to know and love got started. Here are some that might surprise you.

1. #YesAllWomen

The hashtag that took the social media by storm last year regarding the way issues of sexism pervade the lives of all women actually was used the first time in a completely unrelated tweet from a guy named Robby Mayne (alternatively @suave_rob12, because no one warned us that our twitter username were public).

2. #BringBackOurGirls

Before this hashtag was an used by activists as a rallying cry to get the 300 kidnapped Nigerian girls back, it was used in a much more lighthearted context. Yazmin Leigh utilized the hashtag in reference to the girl band Mixers Monday back in October 2012.

3. #JeSuisCharlie

Another case of a popular activist hashtag starting from utter nonsense. Years before the Charlie Hebdo attack and subsequent public outcry, Ross Peters tweeted the following gibberish in November 2013 using the hashtag.

4. #Ferguson

This hashtag blew up this year after the shooting of Michael Brown, but originally it was used by They Call me Stacy so she could tell the world about the new #Niall #Ferguson book she started reading.

5. #BreakTheInternet

Someone was trying to break the intent way before Kim Kardashian's now famous champagne-butt-shot (that sounds dangerous – please, no one try to take champagne-butt-shots), and her name was Winne M. Peric. You go, Winnie.