I have a hard time with hashtag-activism. As a member of an excruciatingly cynical generation and as a man who often has a hard time settling his internal debate before he debates anyone else, I find myself often rolling my eyes when I see a friend’s Facebook profile pic become an equal sign or when a colleague drops a hashtag in support of a cause. And in these past weeks, I’ve been somewhat uncertain about the #bringbackourgirls hashtag.
When I saw various luminaries from show business, business, journalism and even our First Lady post their support via Tweets, I couldn’t help but ask what this was really accomplishing. Some of these people have influence over policy, isn’t a hashtag somewhat minor league when the lives of young women are at stake?
And then I discovered the effect the hashtag has had on news coverage of the brave young women who have been kidnapped by a dangerous Islamic extremist group, and what effect that has had on the Nigerian government’s efforts to bring those women home. And that’s amazing.
Moreover, Chris Matthews, a man who I normally find unbearable (no offense, Chris), made an excellent point on his show Hardball this past Tuesday that our nation has historically found ways to raise awareness for causes, from the yellow ribbons we hung in honor of the Iranian hostages in the late 1970s, to the AIDS walk that so many people of all walks of life take part in to raise awareness for those suffering from a terrible disease – we have always found a way to show that at the very least we care for those in trouble.
And with that in mind, I find myself not just in disagreement with conservative writer and generic white man George Will when he said that those supporting the hashtag were engaging in an “exercise in self esteem” or Ann Coulter took to Twitter to mock those who support the young women who were kidnapped, but rather outraged. Even if the activism hadn’t made the difference it inarguably had, I ask my friends on the right why anyone should feel ashamed for caring? Why shouldn’t men and women who don’t have the sizable audicence that professional children like George Will or Ann Coulter have a way to express their opinion? It’s utterly laughable that a cable news pundit would mock someone else for engaging in an “exercise of self esteem” given that’s how these hacks make their money.
A group of women bravely risked their lives to seek an education. People in America showed their support via Twitter, which is not, as the cynical of us like to pretend, a meaningless exercise. In fact, it has been proven in this recent turn of events that it has a huge impact. You out there should be proud to do whatever you can to help. And if what you can do is only a hashtag, then hashtag on, bullies be damned.