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#AreThereLimits?


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By Natalie Zur

Sentry Staff Reporter

With nearly 205 million followers, Twitter has become a platform through which people are able to voice opinions and converse with others about pressing, and sometimes fleeting, issues.  Either way, a new form of advocacy, known as “hashtag activism,” has become prominent.  Popular social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, can be used to generate both support and awareness for prominent global issues.  Nonetheless, support and buzz can foster an apathetic environment for those viewed as simply typing on a computer, rather than volunteering and raising money; in addition to those who simply disagree with the cause altogether.  This digital age connectedness has spurred unrest between friends and people who live halfway across the world.

Communication, via social media, has the ability to unite common interests and goals in unprecedented ways.  This was evident during the Arab Spring, when Facebook was used to help create a revolution, and even during the Twitter #CancelColbert “revolution” from late March.  Rapid communication, coupled  with a short shelf life and character limit, has put “activism traditionalists” into a tizzy, as nowadays, there is a new social media cause every week.

It is almost unanimously agreed upon that hashtag activism spreads awareness, yet this awareness in turn spurs backlash.  The hashtag movement #BringBackOurGirls, created in response to the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls, was met with scorn by Fox News.  Fox newscaster, George Will, claimed it was simply a “useless exercise of self esteem” because no matter how many times the hashtag was used, it would not bring the girls back to safety.  However, many people around the world may not have even known about this issue without the tweets, retweets and social media, which leaves people wondering whether this type of activism is worth it or not.

“Absolutely,” affirmed junior Grace Mauer. “Any social media activism is good because if you are not getting the word out on a medium that people see, then you are not getting it out there period.  So when something starts trending, people take notice and learn about it.”

The Internet era and Internet activism has also beckoned those who make up their own facts to rally or hinder causes; thus, discerning accurate versus false facts on social media has become increasingly difficult.

“I would get in arguments with others on Twitter, but these people would not know anything about what they were trying to argue.  You have to have actual facts, you cannot just make things up to support your own beliefs,” said sophomore Christina McBride.

Within Yorktown and globally, the hashtag #YesAllWomen gained popular momentum.  This movement originally began in response to Elliot Rodger’s killing spree and the “not all men” stigma which surrounds conversations about rape and male privilege.  Through this hashtag, women across the globe could share their shocking and hard-to-read stories and also be comforted by others facing the same issues.

Elliot Rodger was clearly mentally ill, yet his maniacal views had the undertones of mainstream American characteristics and issues such as beauty, wealth, fame and misogyny.  Passionate debates sprung out on Twitter, whether one knew the backstory or not, and 140 characters were used to tell the world why they are right.  Some of the most popular tweets, according to the New Yorker, were as follows:

“#YesAllWomen because ‘I have a boyfriend’ is more effective than ‘I’m not interested’—men respect other men more than my right to say no.”

“#YesAllWomen because every time I try to say that I want gender equality I have to explain that I don’t hate men.”

“#YesAllWomen because apparently the clothes I wear is a more valid form of consent than the words I say.”

“I repeat: the fact that there are male victims isn’t proof it’s not misogyny. It’s evidence that misogyny hurts men too. #YesAllWomen.”

For 48 hours straight, there was one tweet per second under the hashtag #YesAllWomen, and they are still coming.  Some people believe that a part of the resulting comments were taken too far.

Arthur Speck, junior, said, “It is crossing the line on social media when you start offending other people.  I am all for defending your own rights, but I do not think you should be doing that while putting down other people and generalizing a whole group, like what happened with #YesAllWomen…that is where I lose respect for their cause.”

Via #NotAllMen, people have made the point that not all men are homicidal misogynists, or at least not all misogynists are not homicidal maniacs.  It is argued that being an awful person does not have a gender; awful people should be punished solely for being awful people.

Speck continued, “I am in support of the hashtag #NotAllMen.  The majority of the #YesAllWomen tweets are not criticizing men, but some really are, so #NotAllMen is a fair defense.  We are not all rapists and oppressors.”

A problem with hashtag activism has turned out to be the lack of organization on social media sites, and how easy it is for a cause to become biased and one-sided.  There is no solution to this issue, as a primary purpose of social media is to provide a free platform for people to speak their mind.  Accordingly, each individual is tasked with drawing their own line in regards to how to act on the Internet.

McBride urged, “Join a club, get involved and get educated, then next time when you get into a disagreement about a cause you will not get mad, which is good. You can never convince someone of anything by being hysterical because your message gets lost in the delivery.”

For now, hashtag activism is here to stay, so some people might want to brush up on their activism etiquette.

 

 

Featured Image by Rachel Finley

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#AreThereLimits?