I recently had a conversation with a few of my closest friends about the impact or lack thereof of hashtag activism. Those of us who came of age just in time to vote in the Presidential election now have stake in politics. As they say, you can’t complain if you didn’t vote. With recent uprisings to protest both newly sworn-in President Trump and the policies he stands for, young people are activly participating in the conversation.
The globe witnessed multitudes of Women’s Marches this past weekend, the central one being held in Washington DC. As a young feminist, I feel so empowered by the demonstration of female strength that showed up to march for the equality we deserve. The hashtag #womensmarch captures thoughts and pictures from the global movement towards equality. These marches show just how much power women have, if only we came together everyday the way that we did this past weekend.
Does this hashtag represent a false sense of participation? I think in some cases yes, but not always. For example, in Make of Use’s piece by Dann Alnright he discusses both the power behind the pound sign, the real action that’s been taken through it, and also the need for real movement instead of typing away about what’s wrong with the world.
In 2012, the Susan G. Komen Foundation decided to withdraw their financial support from the family planning organization Planned Parenthood. Because Planned Parenthood is often perceived as a symbol of women’s reproductive rights, there was a big backlash against the Foundation. #standwithpp started trending. Four days later, the Foundation announced that they would not be withdrawing their funding.
… People are really excited by the idea that they could use Facebook and Twitter to make a change in the world, but there are a lot of factors that go into the success of a campaign; including, of course, the definition of success. “Dismantling the state” with hashtags might not be a reasonable goal.
#standwithpp really made a change, but what about hashtags that have good intent but don’t have any real world impact? For example, after the Presidential election, many of my Facebook friends, myself included, posted their thoughts about the future with Donald Trump having the title of President of the United States. While this is a great way to spread your thoughts about a particular subject, did it do anything? (I hope that it may have changed the minds of some conservative pro-Trump friends and family, but there’s no real way to gauge that.)
Hashtags are great, but when it comes time to make a real change, I think showing up and marching, calling state Representatives and Senators, and taking physical action is just as important as speaking one’s mind on social media, if not more so.