#HASHTAGS:  These seven hashtags changed our conversations within the past three years

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Login, search it, click it and join the conversation. Pretty much how most of these hashtags became global trends. But, it delves deeper. Most of these hashtags if not all, come from a place of struggle, a need or desire that has always existed. What social media did was give it a platform, a thing that was never readily or easily accessible.

Evolving is a process and social media has taken us through that process. From affecting the world by culture and religion, to giving a platform for people to ask questions, to get answers, become bullies and get bullied, our world is changing.

From chat rooms to Facebook, post a picture on Instagram, tweet it on Twitter and go on, share that story on Snapchat. The list goes on. Social media is powerful and like all things powerful, it wields great influence.

To have a measure of control over your narratives, you have to create something that allows you follow-up progress, and hashtags have become the new way to start movements and follow-up progress and connection. This has changed the way of protest and monitoring of events.

Here are some of the popular hashtags that kept us clicking over the last few years. And they are listed in no particular order:

#Metoo. The MeToo hashtag is one of the most popular hashtags in recent times. It has changed the social media space and the world at large. It was birthed as a movement against sexual harassments and assaults. Actor Alyssa Milano came across the phrase MeToo, totally unaware of its source, encouraged survivors of sexual assault to use it and share their stories. In a couple of weeks after the call, the MeToo hashtag would be used more than 12 million times, resulting in an astonishing outpour of sorrow, pain, fear and struggles. The hashtag is the brain child of Tarana Burke, a black activist who worked with survivors of sexual assault.

Twelve years earlier, she had set up MeToo, an activist group. In her grandest dreams, she had thought that someday it might amount to a Me Too bumper sticker on somebody’s car, a reminder that you are not alone. Something also stood out. She believed most of her kind works, despite how important they were, needed to be done in the dark.

Something dramatic changed what she had considered a small plan. The incident propelled the movement into something even bigger. A news piece had broke in the New York Times. One of Hollywood’s most powerful men, Harvey Weinstein had been stunningly exposed as the subject of multiple accusations of sexual assault and there on screen, the people were carrying the hashtag #MeToo

#BlackLivesMatter. This is one of the longest running hashtags on this list. First, it was a movement and then it metamorphosed into a political force. It was birthed by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi.

Social media gave birth to this particular movement. In 2013, the movement began after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting that resulted in the death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin.  #BlackLivesMatter became a way for African-Americans and people of colour to share their frustrations.

Black Lives Matter became generally recognized for its street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Michael Brown, resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson, and Eric Garner in New York City.

The movement has addressed the deaths of numerous other African-Americans while in Police custody or as a result of police actions.

The summer of 2015 was a pivotal for the movement as activists of the movement became involved in the 2016 United States presidential elections.

This hashtag has gathered a lot of attention. It has been used over 27 million times and started conversations both online and offline. But, the U.S. population’s perception of the movement Black Lives Matter varies significantly by race.

A counter-phrase “All Lives Matter” was formed as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement. It created a debate but one that criticized it for misunderstanding and trivializing the message of Black Lives Matter.

There have also been other similar hashtags. One is the creation of “Blue Lives Matter” by supporters of the police after the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson. But, none has generated the kind of conversation and awareness of #BlackLivesMatter.  

#NeverAgain; The #NeverAgain hashtag, though considered politically motivated by some, is a movement started by high school students who had experienced a shoot-out at their school and decided to start a movement to condemn the act and also appeal to the government of America for more stringent procedures for rifle ownership. What do you do when you’ve just gone through a near-death experience that left friends dead? Grieve? Absolutely! But for the students of Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, grieve was not enough, something else needed to be done.

The Twitter hashtags #NeverAgain, and #EnoughIsEnough was formed by a group of twenty Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in the aftermath of the shooting on February 14, 2018, in which seventeen students and staff members were killed by a former student who was armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle.

It started on social media as a movement “for survivors of the Stoneman Douglas Shooting by survivors of the Stoneman Douglas Shooting” using the hashtag #NeverAgain.

It did not just stay on social media. It has moved on to become a political force, campaigning against gun laws and legislatures that makes it easy for people to get access to rifles. It demands legislative actions to be taken to prevent similar shootings in the future. It even vocally condemned U.S. lawmakers who have received political contributions from the NRA (National Rifle Association).

The group was formed by Cameron Kasky and his friends in the first four days after the shooting. Among the most prominent members are Alfonso Calderon, Sarah Chadwick, Jaclyn Corin, Ryan Deitsch, Emma González, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Delaney Tarr, Sofie Whitney, and Alex Wind Corin, González, Hogg, Kasky, and Wind were featured on a cover of Times Magazine in March 2018.

Never Again MSD has inspired students from across the country to protest the nation’s gun laws.

Never Again MSD has inspired vigils to protest gun violence and discuss reforms.

#BringBackOurGirls. While in secondary school, getting kidnapped, tortured and kept away from your family is the least thing on your mind. You worry about tests, unfinished notes, teachers and the opposite sex but kidnapping. It never really comes to mind.

For the 279 girls that were taken away from their family on the night of 14 and 15 April 2015 at the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, kidnap was also not on their mind or the horrors they’ve faced and for some of them, that horror has lingered.

Boko Haram, an extremist and terrorist organization based in northeastern Nigeria, claimed responsibility for the kidnap.

Ibrahim Abdullahi, a corporate lawyer in Abuja, first tweeted the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag that went viral and saw public figures from all around the world joining the movement. The campaign did not bring back all the girls but it did keep the conversation going and brought the attention of the world to the horror of that day.

Since then, a website, Facebook pages and lots of their communication outlets have been launched and dedicated to the safe return of the girls. There have been several marches and appeal to the Nigerian government. It is said that 57 of those girls have escaped but 217 are still out there.

If this particular hashtag does nothing, it is a reminder and hope that we all hold out for the safe return of these girls.

#BringBackOurGirls started in Nigeria. It is also one of the longest running global hashtags. It started out as a movement to condemn the abduction of hundreds of school girls in northern Nigeria and to also move the government of the country to act fast in getting the missing girls back home.

#SayNoToSlavery. Salvery is not just a word. It is something that still exists right amongst us. When Lincoln freed the slaves, it did not automatically end slavery but it did start a movement that took several years and introduced to historical figures the beginning of ending centuries old business.

It is 2018, the later part of the 21st century and it is easy for one to assume that what we’ll know or hear about slavery will be taught in classrooms, read in books or talked over a hot delicious meal while we squint or shudder at such horrible times but no, the reality is much different. The good news is we get to talk about slavery and its effects but the greater bad news is that slavery is alive and sadly doing well and according to a release by the International Labour Office (ILO) an affiliate of the UN and the Walk Free Foundation, there is an estimate of 40.3 million people in some form of modern day slavery. In a world of about 8 billion people, those numbers do count. The #SayNoToSlavery hashtag has appeared in different forms over the years and it is a movement that has existed for a very long time and it is difficult to trace the source of it on social media.

In November 2017, a CNN reporter called Nima Elbagir broke a research/documentary piece she did on slavery and in Libya, how hundreds of Africans are dying and being sold as slaves while trying to find what they consider a better life. It sparked global outrage. Celebrities and everyday people tweeted, posted, talked and snapped about it. Governments went in and tried to bring their people home and do what they consider best under the circumstance. It reminded the world of the horrors of slavery and introduced a generation to what slavery is like on a factual level. #SayNoToSlavery is one hashtag that brought the world, especially the African continent to a round table discussion.

#Fakenews; There has is an increase in news consumption. But this demand and supply chain created one of the biggest online monsters of all time, the FAKE NEWS. This hashtag was created to bring attention to the fact that because it is in the news does not make it necessarily true. This is one hashtag that has got a certain president’s blessing and signature all over it. He did not start it but he helped in making it quite popular as he has a knack for recognizing what he perceives as #fakenews and calls it out.

It is a big problem as social media has increased the way and our source of digesting news. But, how and why did this become a hashtag that became a trend?

It moved from a social media hashtag to a journalistic cliché that saw big new houses coming up with fancy adverts to prove that their news is not fake or simply to throw what we “shade” on social media.

It was mid 2016, and Buzzfeed’s media editor, Craig Silverman, observed a funny stream of completely made-up stories that seemed to originate from one small Eastern European town.

Investigation ensued and what they uncoverd was a small cluster of news websites all registered in the same town in Macedonia called Veles. Shortly before the U.S. elections, they uncovered at least 140 fake news websites which were raking in huge numbers on Facebook.

You cannot prove or disprove the interest the young people in Veles have in American politics but they saw numbers that translated into money and they wanted their fiction to travel widely on social media.

This essentially birthed the #FakeNews hashtag and it has continued to take different forms. It is also being used as weapon.

 

#WomensMarch. This is movement, by women to advocate legislation and policies on human rights especially women’s rights, LGBTQ e.t.c. later became a hashtag by other women who couldn’t join the march to show their support for the movement. Women and women’s rights are something that have created debates for centuries. It has its victories and its losses but for women, looking back at where they are coming from and where they are now, I dare say most will agree that it is all worth it although there is still much to be done.

#WomensMarch takes different form every year but the motive is the same. The message still focuses on the rights of women but the focus changes.

The women’s rights movement of the late 19th century went on to address the wide range of issues spelled out at the Seneca Falls Convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth traveled the country lecturing and organizing for the next forty years.

From advocating legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues, including women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights, the focus to bring the world’s attention to women and how issues affects them.

You can find the roots of #WomensMarch in feminism, liberation and rights. While this hashtag is on social media and generates millions of interactions, this particular one started a long time before computers and internets.

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