#Activism: Preaching to the choir or spreading the word?

Yes, hashtags help social 

movements gain momentum



clement mugshotThe hashtag has been a trending form in social media and has become more popular within the past decade following the first hashtag use in 2007.  Hashtags, when tagged onto a post, make the post easier to find on a social network. 

However, as opposed to a couple of years ago, hashtags have become more than just trying to gain followers. Now, hashtags are being used to raise awareness about different movements like Black Lives Matter and rape victims.  

The #BlackLivesMatter has led to movements battling inequality between races, starting in 2013 from a Facebook post by the African American activist Alicia Garza.  

The movement became more popular leading into 2014 on Twitter when two young, African American men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, were killed by police officers at different times within the same year. 

Their deaths caused the hashtag to take hold, and a movement was formed.  The movement brought to surface the cruelty and unfairness thrown at people of different racial backgrounds, focusing primarily on police brutality. 

#BlackLivesMatter moved to every form of social media and caused a snowball effect whenever there was news about racial injustice.  Today, marches and protests have swept across the nation and supporters work hard every day to bring awareness to the hashtag to stop all forms of inequality.  

One hashtag that really went viral in 2015 was #IStandWithAhmed.  High school student Ahmed Mohamed was suspended from school after a teacher thought Mohamed’s homemade clock was a bomb.  . 

Anil Dash, a tech blogger, saw Mohamed’s story and tweeted using #IStandWithAhmed.  The tweet went viral in the engineering and tech community and brought up questions on racism and Islamophobia.  

Hashtags have also brought more awareness to assault and rape victims.  #MeToo is a new and controversial hashtag.  Starting the hashtag 10 years ago, activist Tarana Burke created the hashtag to give a voice to women who have been sexually assaulted or raped.  

One of Burke’s Tweets about creating the hashtag said, “If all women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me Too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” 

 Now,  #MeToo has been seen more often on social media because actress Alyssa Milano retweeted Burke’s quote and the rest is history.  

One supporter of the hashtag made a video on Facebook, inviting women living in her town who were sexually assaulted or raped to write #MeToo with Sharpie on the mattress that she herself was raped on.  More women today are using the hashtag to make people realize just how often these occurrences happen.  

There are many more hashtags out there that are created for the sole purpose of making different kinds of social injustices public.  Everywhere we look on social media, hashtags are there.  

They help shed light on infringements that happen in our world, create movements and gain supporters for these causes.  Hashtags are a new way to spread awareness on these situations and the causes activists are advocating for.

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