Using #activism has purpose in real life protesting and activism. Social media activism can sometimes be perceived as vain and not useful nor effective. From my personal experience and research through this project I have found the exact opposite to be true.
Social media tags and campaigns first and foremost bring issues to light. These issues can be local, national, or even global, because of the scope of the internet. Bringing awareness to an issue is something that social media has increased exponentially. Some current topics that hashtags bring to light are the conflicts in the middle east (particularly Syria), political debates and policies (The Wall, the Immigration Ban, etc.), and the Flint Michigan water crisis. These are three examples of global, national, and local issues brought to light on a massive scale because of #activism. Social media is also a news source for many, especially teens and young adults who don’t read newspapers or watch news on television. There are many news outlets that have social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where #activism is most prevalent. Many people I know would not be informed about these issues if it were not for hashtag trends.
Once a large population has been made aware of an issue, many people want to help. That may be donating time, money, resources, or simply just retweeting and sharing to further spread awareness. A huge success story is the ALS ice bucket challenge. This trend went viral in the summer of 2014 and raised awareness plus millions of dollars for ALS research. This campaign allowed research to accelerate and become so much closer to finding a cure. Because of the awareness #activism can spread, it can lead to larger groups of more informed protestors. It also allows people from all over the world to gain insight on what specific populations are going through. By promoting activism and protests, it has become easier to plan and execute successful protests with many passionate people participating.
#Activism can also promote dialogue and educate people on different perspectives. Twitter and Facebook can be great platforms to share opinions and see those of others, maybe resulting in a changed viewpoint for one of the parties. There is also the other side to that, in where people become more ingrained in their views, but in my opinion somewhat unproductive dialogue is far better than no dialogue at all.
For this module Google was a really nice tool, as were the articles linked on dgst101.net. Since this area is so internet based it wasn’t difficult to find information on #activism. I saw a lot of suggestions in slack which was a really nice way to get a lot of information from one site. I found both TAGS and NodeXL to be confusing and I ended up not using them. Including another option or directions on how to track a hashtag might be better.
Now, a personal anecdote about how powerful #activism can be: in the winter of my junior year of high school (2015) there was a snow storm and the roads were icy, but the schools in my county (Fairfax County Public Schools) didn’t close or even delay. There were several bad car accidents, with a few students ending up in the hospital, and major traffic delays. This rightfully sparked an outrage with students and parents (but mostly students). Thus started #closeFCPS. By the end of the day, my county became a worldwide trending hashtag. One county in Virginia made a worldwide impact in just one day. Since that day, snow days are deliberated much more carefully and the school board airs on the side of extreme caution with all their current weather related school closing decisions. Imagine how much more attention and impact can be made about even more important issues like politics, inequality, genocides, and so much more, if people worldwide raised awareness as fervently as Fairfax County students did in just one day.