How #Hashtags have emerged as a #Deviceforchange

social media trends and outlook

Hashtags were created by the social media giant Twitter as a means of organizing content. Now they are found on many social media channels like Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and in fact used in a normal conversation. Since the inception of social media, the platform has gone through many different eras, from what was highly confusing to use, to one that has become a vital space for memes, discussion and especially activism.

#Hashtivism is the new trend and has been trending in the number one spot right from its commencement. We live in the world of #hashtags and it has changed our lifestyles. #Hashtivism has its critics, but there’s no denying that hashtag culture has changed the way we talk about some of the most pressing social issues of our time. And in the last decade, the way social media platforms have shaped conversations about women’s issues and feminism have had an unprecedented impact.

Have you been a part of these hashtags?

#womenintech  #womeninstem  #girlswhocode  #girlwhocodes  #stemsquad #womeninstem #womenwhocode  #girlengineer #womeninengineering #ilooklikeanengineer #equality #societyofwomenengineers  #engineeringgirls #ironringgirls #womeninbusiness #womenwhocode #womenempowerment #womeninbiz #femalefounders #businesswoman #girlboss #girlsrule

If yes, I’m sure that you would have realised that social media platforms are a contentious and transformative space. There are still folks out there whose day job it is to demonize those who are a part of this hashtivism.

But I also know that if it wasn’t for hashtags like #YouOkSis,  #WhyIStayed, #RapeCultureIsWhen, #FreeMarissa, all of the #IStandWith tags, and tags that called our attention, and all those under the #SayHerName tag — we would likely be having very different public conversations, or worse, no conversations at all.

From the furore over the Nirbhaya incident- #Nirbhaya, to the honest and sometimes heartbreaking confessions of #RapeCultureIsWhen, there have been countless hashtags that have not only empowered women, but have raised awareness about issues that affect all of us. It has revolutionized the whole process or path of disseminating and spreading awareness on varied topics. In the past couple of years, the usage of hashtags has been at its pinnacle. The hashtag phenomenon has risen the degree of spreading awareness wherein while using any social media platform we are unconsciously conditioned to be aware of what’s happening.

While news these days are sporadic and short-lived, hashtags considerably have a better shelf life.

Once an issue gauges popularity through hashtags, it occupies screens on every platform, which is a brownie point.  It’s like a small spark of fire that leads to a forest fire. Currently, #MeToo is trending wherein girls and women are posting #Metoo on their social media handles, after when they were asked to share if they had ever been sexually assaulted or harassed. In light of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, the words are being used to show people just how widespread sexual harassment and assault are. More than 30,000 women and some men had replied to the tweet by Monday morning. Thousands of others have posted the words on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. This recent hashtag is an example to realise the power of hashtags in drawing attention to a myriad issue.

Women have taken advantage of the reverberance and prevalence feature of hashtags to cast light on issues like harassment, violence, gender inequality, pay gaps and so forth.

#WomenBoycottTwitter has been trending over the weekend wherein many women had declared they will boycott Twitter on 13th October, in solidarity with Rose McGowan, whose account was temporarily suspended.

The actress is among the alleged victims of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein and one of the first to speak out. Many of those taking part in the boycott have also shared details of online abuse on the platform. The hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter has been shared more than 190,000 times in a matter of hours.

Action-oriented campaigns like #LeanIn, #ChangeTheRatio, #Ask4More have helped shine a spotlight on the unique issues that women face in the workplace. #LeanIn offers support and inspiration to help women speak openly about their challenges and achieve their professional goals. #ChangetheRatio is an ongoing campaign to increase visibility, access and opportunity for women in all walks of their professional lives. #Ask4More campaign is all about giving women the tools, support and information they need to ask for equal pay.

Campaigns like #NotBuyingIt, #SolidarityforWhiteWomen, #MediaWeLike focused on changing how women are represented in the media. #NotBuyingIt was to draw attention to advertisements that belittle and objectify women. #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, the hashtag has given women of colour a centralized platform to talk about the issues and concerns that so often get excluded from mainstream feminism conversations. #MediaWeLike was created to call attention to the companies that are doing it right. It highlights advertisements that accurately represent women.

From promoting education to challenging stereotypes, Campaigns like #girlrising #betibachaobetipadhao #WeAreSilent, #ImAGirl #BringBackOurGirls were all about inspiring and empowering girls.

#NotAllMen hashtag was one of the most trending hashtags which spoke about how all these accusations are generalised. Also, how not all men are violent and bad. #NotAllMen was equally posted by both men and women which shows that each and every issue is covered in the social media, not just women orientated.

Every campaign, project, business, social cause use hashtags to bring about awareness. These are extremely important considering how it is being used, perceived and received. Let us all hope that all these drives bring about the change that they seek for.

Also Read: Kirthi Jayakumar asks, “Yes, #MeToo. What Next?”

Reshma Ganeshbabu is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed in this column are author’s own.