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Blog / How to preserve the heart of society? / Hashtag #activism
BLOG
Hashtag #activism
When we think about Internet these days, clickbaits, false news, multitude of senseless video material, trivialities and advertisements we are, in the majority of cases, unwillingly exposed to, probably first come to our mind.

We forget that online space is presently the space in which important fights for basic human rights are battled, in which debates on global and local issues are opened, and questions are raised the answers to which will make the society we live in better.

In times of corporatized media and domination of profit as the main drivers, the topics important for a society increasingly find their space in virtual environment. The online environment in the mainstream media has enabled the initiation of fervent debates on gender inequality, poverty and famine, the needs of people affected by natural disasters, wars, on political repression, as never before.

Solidarity, humanity, care for a person living next to us lies at the heart of society. When we talk about the problems of the society, we make it better, develop and enhance it. The most successful and the most productive dialogues more and more start precisely in virtual communities, on the profiles on social networks, and their strength and rates often find their way to the real world, shaping realistic, tangible actions, the engagement which changes the world we live in. The society is composed of individuals, and their voice can be equally heard in the virtual societies. Their messages are often more impressive and stronger because they echo the tone of the real life, real people and their feelings, impressions and ideas. By our engagement on social networks, by the material we share, comment, or even only give our like to and share, we contribute to the quality of public dialogue, raising important topics, increasing their visibility and, ultimately, influence the quality of society we live in. We preserve the heart of that society.

My attitude perhaps originates from a deeply romantic idea on the potential of each individual and a hero that each one of us has in himself or herself, but I believe that if we learn to use the social media not only as the source of amusement and getting brief information, but as a powerful communication channel, a tool for strengthening and putting things into action, we can really contribute to improvement and development of society we live in.

Why not? By the way, even the most massive social movements were initiated by discussions in offices, classrooms, sitting rooms, by exchanging ideas in dialogues and gathering around common interests and problems. Our rooms presently are the online rooms, and the speed at which ideas are communicated has never been higher.

Last year, we celebrated ten years of existence of hashtag, # symbol, which has introduced new rules of communication and promoted new strategies of presentation of contents, ideas, and topics.

Hashtag activism is nowadays one of the most efficient, most visible ways to obtain a quick response, to impose a specific topic, to join a group of people interested in solving a problem.

Therefore, it is important for us to understand that each message that we send in the online space has a power to talk about the environment, problems, deficiencies. It has a power to make the society that we live in better, creating critical masses, new communities of interested, motivated, courageous, solidary individuals inside such a society.

And when we say society, we don’t think only of the immediate local community. The limits thereof are much wider, boundless, and by our voice, we can engage and contribute to making the global space even better.

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If you still don’t believe in the power of hashtag activism, you are not convinced or you are sceptic about its sincerity and authenticity, it would be sufficient only to get reminded of some most successful hashtag campaigns that have made both global and local societies better.

#BlackLivesMatter – hashtag used online for tens of millions of times was launched as an initiative of several people, which has grown into an important, influential social and political movement with clear political objectives, owing to consistent work, affirmation, and engagement of ordinary people, and as quoted by the New York Times, it was the first civil rights movement in the 21st century.

#only19 and #BringThemHere have drawn the attention to the problems of migrants and tragic destiny of their youngest.

The British #StopFundingHate campaign has been launched aimed at drawing the attention to hate speech and anti-migrant attitude of numerous print media in the Great Britain. The result of the campaign was advertisers boycotting numerous printed editions that imposed themselves as the leaders in the negatively cast campaign against migrants.

The UN campaign #HeForShe has placed in its focus gender inequality and the fact that the effects of gender-based discrimination affect the entire society.

Last March was marked by #WomensMarch, one of the most powerful events that gathered women all over the world wishing to make the future ahead of us and societies we live in better, less discriminating, more open for all diversity of capacities and strengths of each one of us. Converting activist spirit, feelings, principal idea and large number of participants from virtual into the real world, onto the streets of towns, has demonstrated the power of hashtag activism to change societies, stereotypes, and routine models of behaviour.

#meToo was used more than six million times on Twitter and Facebook only during the fall of 2017. Topics and events, very painful, delicate and deeply unjust, have proved to be an already integrated, invisible part of the contemporary society, compromising it and crushing it from within, imposing itself as its integral, and implied part. A hashtag with underlying sincere feelings, strength, desire to speak up and to change such a society has succeeded in unmasking everything that had been suppressed and unrevealed till then. That is the power of hashtag activism initiated by individuals.

What about Serbia? Owing to hashtags during the floods in 2014, the organization of providing support to the affected people was conducted most smoothly through social networks. Numerous humanitarian actions for collecting funds for children and other vulnerable groups in the society get better visibility owing to social network activism. Finally, much credit goes to hashtag activism here as well, when it comes to raising awareness of the importance of organ donation - #najvaznijipoziv (#MostImportantCall) was the designating term for this important campaign.
AUTHOR
dr Ana Martinoli
Associate Professor at Faculty of Drama Arts