Tagging, before hashtags, is a way of creating an alternative categorisation of content. Tagging blog content becomes extremely popular. It allows users to relate similar blog posts, to hop from one to other similar ones, to read more. From bloggers’ point of view, it expands the reach of their posts immediately. Then there comes hashtags with Web 2.0 and social networking. Hashtag aids the discovery by creating a unique non-dictionary term to which the users collectively assign a clearer scope of meaning. With its great popularity, there comes #hashtagcampaigns.
Not long after the famous ice bucket challenge, another hashtag campaign craze over the Internet. This time, it is #wakeupcall. It urges people to take a “just-woken-up-but-still-had-time-to-look-decent-selfie”, donate $5 to the charity in aid of Unicef, and nominate three other people to participate. #wakeupcall campaign is basically the same as a campaign run by the Cancer Research UK some time ago, but this time, with more celebrities. One cannot argue that the social hashtag campaigns are a bad thing because charities are really benefitting from these social media frenzies. However, the only reason for most of people taking part bothering with all the bare faced selfies or ice buckets or any other things coming the next month, is to make themselves look good in terms of “up-to-date” and “fit-in”, and, this is a real problem.
To be fair, charity should be a personal decision, rather than a result of peer or society pressure. It becomes really tricky for us when a notification pops up in your phone from one of our “friends” on a social network telling us to do something that in reality we do not want to do. If one ignores it, he risks being seen as not want to stop ALS or cancer. If one donates, but does not chuck something over himself, he will probably be labelled boring among his “friends”. #loselosesituation. The desire to fit in is just too much so that the charity knows it and uses it. Taking silly selfies and challenges are not about the people who are suffering from cancer or ALS or any other real illnesses. The whole hashtag campaign has become about us and our own image. Hashtag, in this case, may have done a “bad” thing. Hashtag may have made us forget the real reasons why we donate.
Hashtag campaigns are not limited to social media and charity combo, they can be political some time as well. Two years after the infamous #kony2012 went viral, the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls lit major social networks on fire with one phrase: #bringbackourgirls.
These hashtag campaigns surely helped raise the awareness of some certain events. However, for example, the originators of #kony2012 “ignore the fact that Joseph Kony was already pushed out of Uganda long before [their] film was made, for using funds largely for themselves, and for hypocrisy by ignoring human rights abuses by the Ugandan military”. In terms of #bringbackourgirls, more than 2 million users have regrammed and/or retweeted the hashtag including First Lady Michelle Obama and a great amount of other celebrities across world, the campaign also became one of the main news topics circulating around for a good 2 or 3 weeks, however, a story by Charlotte Alfred for The World Post brings us the following update (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/14/nigeria-girls-kidnapped-5-months_n_5791622.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063):
“Not one student has been rescued.
“In the first days after the abduction, 57 of the girls managed to escape from their captors. But not one has escaped or been rescued since then. Even though they were reportedly located months ago. In May, a Nigerian military official claimed he knew where the girls were being held. A month later, U.S. surveillance planes also spotted a group that officials believed to be the girls.
“Stephen Davis, an Australian cleric and mediator, said in June that a deal to free the girls had fallen apart three different times in one month. He says that powerful people with “vested interests” are working to sabotage a deal, and he has accused Nigerian politicians of funding Boko Haram. Nigeria’s government has defended its approach to the crisis and warned that a rescue effort might risk the girls’ lives.
“When other countries did start to help, they didn’t get very far. The U.S. sent 80 troops in late May to coordinate an aerial search from neighboring Chad. Canada, France, Israel and the U.K. also sent special forces to Nigeria. But six weeks later, the Pentagon press secretary announced that the U.S. mission would be scaled back, saying: ‘We don’t have any better idea today than we did before about where these girls are.’”
On the side note, since April, Boko Haram has claimed to take over a few other towns, and kidnap at least three more groups of girls (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/missing-nigeria-schoolgirls/bloody-toll-boko-haram-behind-deadliest-killing-spree-9-11-n130206) as well as boys and young men (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/15/boko-haram-kidnap-boys_n_5681165.html).
So again, what is the real point of retweeting #bringbackourgirls? To bring back “our” girls, or to fit in? Is it about “our girls” or about us?