Hash-Tag Activism: Innovative or Lazy?

Is Social Media the Correct Tool for Activism?Call-to-action-with-words

As our society becomes ever more entrenched in social media, more and more we begin to associate activism with a hash-tag.

“#Black lives matter”, “#bring back our girls” and “# I can’t breath”, have been the rallying cry for social activist in the digital age.

But as in all things there is points and counter-points to just how effective this strategy is.

The Good

Social media can be a vital tool when calling for people to mobilize to demonstrate for a social injustice like we saw in the wake of Michael Browns’ killing.

But some have also criticized so called “hash-tag activism” as un-substantive and lacking action.

The Bad

I feel this is a fair point of view that should be explored.  A prime example of this is when in April of 2014, when 276 young girls in Nigeria were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram.  Twitter was a wash with pictures of celebrities and politicians holding signs that read, “#bringbackourgirls”. And although the United States sent some 200 military and law enforcement advisers to Nigeria to help, we have yet to see any real action or resolution.

Malcolm X

Recently the New York Times published an option piece by Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X.  In it Shabazz imagines what her dad might think about the organizing today with the use of social media.

In the piece Shabazz writes, “but he would be the first to say that slogans aren’t action. They amount to nothing but a complaint filed against a system that does not care. In his speeches, he did not simply cry “Inequality!” — he demanded justice, and he laid out the steps necessary to achieve it.”

What does it all mean? 

As with most thing we need to take the good with the bad.  We need to learn from the mistakes of others and understand how we can use those mistakes and do things better in the future.  So as we know social media can be a powerful way to spread a message.  But a message only matters if there is action along with it.

About the Author

Drew Wherry is a junior at the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and is currently working on certificates in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy Communications.  He is the Director of Tee it Up for the Troops – Iowa City Golf Event, the No Labels State Director of Iowa and Vice President of the University of Iowa Veteran Association (UIVA).  After graduation Drew hopes to work in the nonprofit sector specifically with organizations that specialize in Veteran’s issues.


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