By: Eliza Borish
A little over a month ago, an Islamic militant, Boko Haram, kidnapped approximately 300 female students from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. The young students are being forced into Islam and into marriage with members of the terrorist organization. Initially, government action was deemed slow and inadequate, prompting protests, which demanded further government involvement. As the story grew larger, the hash tag #BringBackOurGirls began trending on twitter allowing the news of this gruesome act to spread globally faster.
Now, #BringBackOurGirls has been shared and retweeted thousands of times. Celebrities like Anne Hathaway, Justin Timberlake, Amy Poehler, and the FLOTUS Michelle Obama have all hopped in on the action and shared photos of themselves holding a sign that reads #BringBackOurGirls. Michelle Obama’s photo alone has had over 58,000,000 retweets.
In this social media driven world, can a campaign like #BringBackOurGirls actually be effective? Yes, it may share and promote global awareness, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty, is it really going to “Bring Back Our Girls?”
This type of campaign, called hash tag activism, is a simplistic approach to fighting often-complicated issues. It’s free, attention grabbing, thought provoking, and when spread globally, it’s a phenomenon. A simple hash tag can garner awareness. While people like me just use the hash tag to spread that awareness, if we all join in, the hash tag trends and gets noticed by the world. People in power who can take direct action like Michelle Obama start using the same hash tag and this is where the results start.
We want the government to be held accountable. We want the government to take action, fast. There should not be a delayed response when 300 females ages 15-18 are kidnapped from their school. Regardless of the city, the country, the continent, we need to bring back our girls. In this day of age, that responsibility no longer applies to those only in power. In belongs to all of us. Politicians and governments have the ability to take action, but we–twitter users, Facebook users, and social media fanatics–have the ability to promote the action we want to be taken. We are not powerless and all it takes is one “retweet”, one “favorite”, and one “like” to become an activist.
It is easy to argue that a campaign like this looses sight of the real goal by bringing attention to the means (let’s just tweet to be trendy!) and not the ends. Ann Coulter, an ultra-conservative republican selfishly turned the twitter campaign to free the kidnapped Nigerian to herself posting a photo with the hash tag #BringBackOurCountry. It seems like Ann Coulter is mocking Michelle Obama, but whatever her reasoning, its obnoxious and attention grabbing, in a bad way. The twitter community has fired back expressing their outrage at Ann Coulter’s insensitivity. Hash tags can often be jokes, but in this case, twitter users mean business. It’s not about you, Ann; it’s about those young girls.
Whatever your thoughts are about twitter and hash tag activism, there is no denying that the world is finally taking action against Boko Haram. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: we want those young, Nigerian schoolgirls to return home safely.
What are your thoughts? Do you think this campaign has provoked the much needed awareness about Boko Haram.
As always, I welcome your feedback and if you like what you read, be social and share.