Hashtag Activism Might Make Things Worse

Columnist thinks these retweets provide false sense of accomplishment
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2014 1:03 PM CDT
Hashtag Activism Might Make Things Worse
A person holds a poster during a rally in Paris for the Nigerian girls.   (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

You've no doubt come across the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, designed to draw attention to the plight of Nigeria's kidnapped girls. DA Lovell has, too, but after a few initial retweets, she's giving it a rest, she writes at the Root. The problem is that hashtag activism like this might raise awareness on a superficial level, but it also gives people "a false sense of accomplishment," writes Lovell. "It makes us feel as if the job is done, thereby keeping us from taking a course of action that may be more effective in the long term."

So what's a concerned citizen to do instead? Lovell suggests taking the time to truly educate yourself about what's happening in Nigeria and neighboring countries, or at least start following people and groups that "are doing work on the ground so you know what’s happening even after Twitter moves on to the next trending topic." Problems like this need substantive changes, and a mindless retweet doesn't cut it. At Campare Afrique, Jumoke Balogun sees a bigger problem: All those tweets give the US and other Western governments that much more excuse to expand their military presence in Africa, and "this is not good." But at the Independent, Felicity Morse rounds up the good and the bad and comes down on the side of hashtag activism because of its ability to get the mass media to focus on a neglected subject. It's a force that "is only going to get more powerful in the future," she writes. "It's not to be sniffed at." (More Nigeria stories.)

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