Hashtagactivism. Also called social media activism, or internet activism. Most people have participated in it even if they haven't. If you ever talked about #Kony2012, liked a post about Michelle Obama's #BringBackOurGirls, or tweeted about #BlackLivesMatter, you have participated in internet activism.
So you may be wondering, what exactly is Hashtagactivism. According to author of @ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture, Joss Hands, Hashtagactivism “supporting and creating awareness on social issues via social media sites and networks.” To be a social activist is easy. The majority of it is retweeting something with a hashtag that your followers will see or responding to an article about a certain issue. The point is to share these issues with your social media friends and followers in hopes that they spread it to their friends and followers. This sharing of ideas helps issues get around and inspire people to think about their opinions on them.
Social media activism is effective because it allows people to voice their opinions and get educated in a plethora of social issues. How does it do that you ask? Because most social media sites are fairly easy to use. For Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you post, add a couple of hashtags and/or filters and you are good to go. Hashtag activism is also effective because it arguably gives the most underrepresented voice, millennials, a chance to voice their opinions, get heard, and be at the forefront of great change. And lastly, it is effective because social media activism is able to reach so many people very quickly. I personally keep track of a lot of things via social media because it is constantly being updated in real time by real people and not potentially biased media outlets (looking at you, Fox News).
FREDDIE GRAY HAS BEEN MENTIONED #DemocraticDebate #BlackLivesMatter
— talayah (@layaaaaaah) October">https://twitter.com/layaaaaaah/status/654101719584... 14, 2015
In recent history, social media activism has gotten a lot done. For example #IStandWithPP. #IStandWithPP was created by and in support with the millions of American women who go to Planned Parenthood for a multitude of reproductive health service. Services that also include abortion. In what the Washington Post says was a highly political move, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, known for their extensive research on breast cancer, decided to cut nearly 700,000 dollars in funding from Planned Parenthood. Social media users took to their platforms and stood up for the women that would be affected by this cut as well as the huge step back in women’s rights. This hashtag described how people felt about the decision to revoke this funding. In response, the Komen Foundation restored the funding and issued an apology.
Another example would be #Ferguson. #Ferguson was created after the murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson officer, Darren Wilson, and the unrest that ensued after he was not indicted. In the story of Twitter activist, Deray Mckesson @deray on Twitter, he left his home in Minnesota to be a part of the protests that we going on in Ferguson. By tweeting and finding other users who were using #Ferguson, we were able to find housing and plan protests as well as give first-hand accounts of what was happening in Ferguson for people who were not there, such as myself.
As any true hashtag activist knows, there are two sides to every argument, this one included. There are some that think social media activism is for people who are too lazy to "actually do something about it". Many people, including the binge-tastic director Shonda Rhimes, have said such things. In Rhimes’ commencement speech at her alma mater, Dartmouth College, she said “A hashtag does not change anything.” and created a hashtag of her own “#StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething. (I thought this was funny because she uses hashtags to spread awareness about her shows.) What she, and many others, fail to understand, social activism IS doing something. It is raising awareness that leads to action and things being changed on national and international scales.
Social media activism isn't a cop-out for activism as we used to know it. Not everyone can take a day off and strike or occupy a building. Social media makes activism accessible to everyone, especially millennials.