The Power of the hashtag


July 07, 2015

2014 was the year of the hashtag, and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2015. Aside from Kim Kardashian breaking the Internet, Twitter erupted with conversations surrounding gender equality, race, and international affairs, among a number of other important, valuable and socially constructive issues. Hashtags such as #HeForShe, #JeSuisCharlie, #BlackLivesMatter, and #BringBackOurGirls circulated like wildfire through the Internet and subsequently across the globe.

So does Twitter Activism actually work? It absolutely can. The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag is an example of a successful grassroots campaign that was launched by Nigerian activists. People like Michelle Obama showed their support by tweeting pictures of themselves holding up signs that featured the hashtag.

MichelleObamaBringBackOurGirls.jpg

The overwhelming support that the hashtag received on media platforms meant that government officials were forced to answer. Why does it work?

  1. Twitter provides the public with a platform to get their voice heard on a global scale and a hashtag is a symbol of support and recognition that rejects all cultural and linguistic barriers. In fact, the top countries with the number of Twitter users include places ranging from the US, to Germany to South Africa.
  2. Twitter also enhances the relationship between the public and politicians, making it easier for them to communicate. If legislators can see that there is widespread support or criticism over an issue then they are more likely to support it or repeal it.
  3. Twitter makes collective action easier. The Arab Spring was a huge anti-totalitarianism uprising that took place between 2010 and 2012 where social media played a huge role in facilitating and acceleration the revolution; Information was exchanged at an exceptionally high speed, a sense of community was created as the public realized that everyone was experiencing brutality and corruption, and citizens realized that they could do something about it.

Twitter activism (aka slacktivism) has received a lot of criticism by those who claim that it requires little time, little involvement and little commitment. It’s simply a way for people to feel good about themselves without actually having any real impact. But Twitter activism does have an impact, an impact that shouldn’t be understated. It has the potential to unite people from all over the globe, and get people engaged with important societal issues. For that reason, I say we should all join the Twitter revolution, and keep on hashtagging!


 

Chanun Singh

Chanun Singh is currently a student at The George Washington University where she is pursuing a degree in Media and Strategic Communications. She is particularly interested in issues of inequality and human rights, and is excited to use her studies and internship experience to further understand how communications and the media can be used to help worthwhile causes. Originally from England she has previous experience working with news and media organizations in The United Kingdom and India, and is excited to be in DC and part of the Veracity team!

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