Occasionally I like to crowd-source an answer to a question here at Slaw as I appreciate the insight and experience that Slaw-yers bring to the table. Today is one of those times when I have such a question that I have been turning over in my mind. Before I pose my question I want to state that I ask it in all earnestness; I also want to preface my question by stating that I am a huge fan and user of Twitter, it is currently one of my top current awareness tools. That being said one thing bothers me a bit and that is the hashtag for social issues. My question is, does it really accomplish anything? Other than Twitteratti get to feel good about themselves by contributing 140 characters to a social cause.
A specific example would be Twitter reaction to the heinous act of kidnapping 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, my question is does #saveourgirls really accomplish anything? And I’ll grant you that some level of awareness is promoted through the use of a hashtag and for a grass roots type of issue the use of a hashtag to raise awareness does accomplish something tangible. But for an issue such as the kidnapping of these girls one could argue that the awareness level is already at a significantly high level. So beyond that what does #saveourgirls accomplish?
Another example would be #FreeAJStaff, what does that accomplish? I would wager that it is not placing pressure on the Egyptian government and the awareness level is already at a high level, so #FreeAJStaff accomplishes what?
I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon, I’m just wondering what is being accomplished by the use of the hashtag in these circumstances. I get the awareness aspect of grass roots issues and I get the fund raising utility of something like #Letstalk or #MyIWK which are interesting and worthwhile uses of social media. But it seems to me that hastagging these larger issues that have saturation level awareness is simply a way for people to feel like they have contributed something tangible to a larger cause when they really have not. I’m more than happy to be convinced otherwise.