What a hashtag can and cannot do

Don’t complain that the media isn’t covering what you think is important and then, BECAUSE of a bunch of hashtags, when they do, you start pointing out how hashtags can’t do anything.

I think we all understand that a tweet or a picture or a meme won’t physically find, bring back, negotiate on behalf of or literally commando out a kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirl, let alone more than 200 of them, just like millions of tweets didn’t bring Trayvon Martin back to life. What they DO accomplish, given enough steam, is the re-prioritizing of the agendas of people who can affect change in the course of these stories because – and it’s sad it needs said at all – sometimes you have to compel people to do the right thing. And you ALWAYS have to compel a government to do the right thing.

So if you don’t like the tweets or memes, fine. But we’re past the point of suggesting that they can have zero effect. Perhaps a visual aid will help point out the logical fallacy of the camp of people who complain about all of those well-meaning, powerless hashtags and posts in their extremely important timelines, newsfeeds and Twitter walls (which are ridiculous by definition):




So no, a hashtag cannot:

– Physically bring back our girls
– Stop a bullet
Bring black people back from the dead
– Guarantee justice
– Change the cast of an impending comic book film disaster

On the other hand, a hashtag has proven at  least moderately effective in:

– Informing millions of people of developments not covered by news outlets
– Swaying news outlets to cover stories deserving wider recognition (which usually get s a government off its ass)
Getting the killer of a boy arrested where it seemed nothing was going to happen
– Change national and international dialogue on issues

So which message is more dangerous: the one that says trying has no effect despite evidence to the contrary, or the one that says that if you make enough noise something COULD happen? I think what I’m really trying to say is that some of you will just never be happy. I have a formula for that too, but it just looks like a big middle finger made out of prime numbers.

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