Trending topics can range from the mundane, to comedic, to serious. Trending topics are an agenda setting tool. In that case of social media, the consumers set the agenda. Twitter recently created a feature that grouped tags together and users can look through it to get a consensus of what that topic is about, the first tweet with that hashtag as well as tweets, pictures and videos.
Twitter became the tool to use to discuss Entertainment, sports, politics and all the creative ways our parents found to punish us as children. People have used it to create safe spaces for themselves and to use their voice to create spaces for other marginalized voices.
A few movements were birthed out of hashtags with the aim of increasing awareness and actively demanding change from our government. #occupy, #resist, #oscarssowhite, #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, #takeaknee are all movements that gained ground using social media. Some of them were quite successful and even managed to be legitimized by mainstream media outlets and figures.
Social media is also a place for marginalized people to use their voice. People who wouldn’t typically be given a platform on traditional media outlets. One of my favorite Social media personalities is Zahira Kelly-Cabrera. She is a Afro-LatinX writer and artist. What people often refer to as a multi-hyphenate. She is a single mother, artist, DJ, motivational speaker. She is #goals. She recently was legitimized via a Ted talk on the hashtag she created, #maybehedoesnthityou.
This hashtag resonated with a lot of people and explored what abuse can look like in a relationship. It may not be that your partner is physically abusing you. Maybe they are withholding money, keeping you away from you family, verbally abusing you. All of these are ways that people have endured abuse. Zahira created a space for all those marginalized women to have a voice because she used her voice to speak up.
“One of the greatest things about social media is the platform it can give to otherwise isolated and marginalized people. Entire communities have developed and grown together over social media, and this has exponentially strengthened many activism campaigns” (N.D. 2018).
Referring back to the civil rights section, I mentioned that change was happening all around the world. Marginalized, occupied, and oppressed people were standing up for themselves. I would argue that social media has created that climate all over again. People can see what freedom, peace and safety look like, and they want that for themselves as well. This next section will explore how those hashtags were able to do that.
Occupy Wall Street emerged in late 2011. Occupation camps emerged all over the country. I remember being in undergrad and walking through an encampment in Woodruff Park on my way to class every day. The Occupy movement was leaderless, voiceless and seemed to have no clear goals. They often talked about the 99% of the country who were not billionaires. They wanted nothing to do with politicians the way that the tea party movement did.
They believed that we are all leaders and that we didn’t need politicians to absorb us into their base. I remember a watching and interview after the Atlanta occupiers booed Rep. John Lewis. I remember him telling the reporter that He said that he was hurt and disappointed. As I think about it in 2020, I understand that he is a part of the establishment. That is who the occupy protesters were protesting.
Media coverage was generally not flattering. Occupy was by no means a media darling. The Occupy movement stood against everything that worked against human interest, everything that wasn’t for the 99%. The occupy movement is anti-corruption and the media framed it in a way that led a lot of people to think poorly of occupy. This movement wasn’t goalless or leaderless as we stated, but everyone in the movement took responsibility for where it was going.
Some reports of Occupy was that it was a failure, but the effects of the movement were far reaching. Michael Levitin says in an article for The Atlantic, “Nearly four years after the precipitous rise of Occupy Wall Street, the movement so many [believed] had disappeared, has instead splintered and regrown into a variety of focused causes” (2016) .The Arab Spring arose out of the occupy protests that happened worldwide. The Arab Spring affected the political climate of Arab majority nations. People ousted dictators and corrupt government and the affects have reverberated through the region.
#Oscarssowhite is a hashtag that emerged in 2015 after the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science announced which actors and which films were nominated for awards. The result was that all the televised categories and prestigious award nominees we white. There were several movies that were released that year that were critically acclaimed and sold well in the box office with diverse casts and directors that were essentially snubbed.
The hashtag looked at past winners, the roles they played and their racial and ethnic background to critique the way that the Academy was propping up white supremacy by saying that movies that explore and center whiteness are more valid than films other films.
This particular hashtag directly targeted media companies and Hollywood for the content that they release, casting practices as well as how they choose nominees for those award shows. Media coverage was analytical. They talked about the topic and discussed ways that the Academy could be more inclusive. The board that votes on motion pictures could be more inclusive, the criteria could adjust to help with inclusivity. The result was that the following year, nominees were more diverse. This hashtag had a direct effect on people.
#Takeaknee is slightly different than other social media social justice movements. This emerged due to former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality, particularly in reference to their interactions with African Americans. The media covered it before the hashtag emerged and people began discussing it. The media covered this for years as the embattled, quarterback was blackballed from the National Football League. The leader of the United States also took time to tweet offensive things in response to the protest.
The media managed to frame the conversation as being disrespectful to the US flag and anthem versus what the protest was truly about, police brutality and the rights of Black Americans to exist without threat to life and liberty by governmental actors. If the #takeaknee movement was solely web based, I believe, there would be no debate about what the intent was. #takeaknee lead to the creation of more content by other athletes who kneel during the national anthem.
Student athletes and professional athletes alike knelt in solidarity with Kaepernick. Many faces censure and harsh consequences. It forced the media to take a stand on what they believed was the more important message to send, and social media helped to make it clear what people believed the right thing to do was.
#BLACKLIVEMATTER is a movement that emerged in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin in 2012. The movement quickly spread and began demonstrating actively in August of 2014. The voices of the chapter-based organization were amplified by using social networks, particularly twitter to organize, and send out their rallying cry. People all over the country participated in marches, “die-ins”, and other direct-action demonstrations to demand justice for Black people who were slain by police.
They have a 6-point plan to reach black liberation. This plan looks at practical ways that our government can support black communities. It takes a look at Mass incarceration, the militarization of local police forces, and the death penalty. It discusses reparations – in that governmental and non-governmental actors should repair the harm they have done with discriminatory practices such as redlining and food deserts – by offering ways to create a more balanced society.
Another point BLM makes is that as people begin to make money of cannabis, people who are in jail for possession and sale should be released from prison and given the same opportunity to make money on the growing industry. It also looks are the decriminalization of prostitution. Opening doors of opportunity for people that are most affected by racially biased policies to find jobs and build lives for themselves and their families. Black Lives Matter, like the civil rights predecessors in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, want to increase voter protections by offering things like automatic registration and election day holidays.
Black Lives matter have been able to control the narrative about the work that they are doing by using social media and their own website to communicate with their audience. They have been able to be legitimized by actors, politicians and even the news media. Spokespersons for the organization have been on many news shows and have been able to convey their points and a clear and direct fashion. While there is still debate about what they were trying to accomplish and complaints about their tactics, even people attempting to blame Black Lives matter for incitement and violence against the police, they have been able to maintain their position as a movement for the people
#METOO is a hashtag movement created by Tarana Burke. She created it in 2006 to discuss the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. The Hashtag went viral in 2017 when Alyssa Milano, a well-known and beloved American actress posted and encouraged others to use the hashtag to talk about their experience with sexual assault and abuse. She tweeted, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” The tweet received half a million replies in about 24 hours (citation).
The media quickly picked up on the story as it was linked to accusations of sexual harassment, assault and rape by former Miramax executive Harvey Weinstein. His inexcusable behavior was discussed at length in the media and many experts were brought on to discuss the legal ramifications as well as the prevalence of this behavior in corporate environments. #Metoo has erupted into a movement. They educate people and uplift women who have been victims of sexual abuse.
The effects of the #Metoo movement are far reaching. People are discussing harassment and assaults more openly. We as a society confronted rape culture and victim blaming. We have set a standard about what we believe is right and what we know is wrong. There has been some pushback. Like with any other social justice cause, People pushed back by using fear tactics saying, “you could be next”. They called it “The war on Men”. There were even spaces where people dismissed victims as liars, con-artists and spurned lovers. The overall media coverage of the movement has brought on change and made our society safer for women.
Analytics is a very good way to understand the reach and engagement level of things on social media. I run an Instagram account for my church and I regularly use analytics to understand if my hashtags are drawing new eyes, if my content is helping users to engage and if my growth rate is satisfactory.
A lot of websites have them built into their system for users to use and explore. It helps social media managers make decisions about what content to create to draw an audience. In this case I will be looking at Analytics to explore the spread of Black Lives Matter and Me Too as movements and if the number of people engaging with those topics justifies the legitimization of the topic in traditional media. I will also use them to compare to pew research polls about people’s online engagement with those topics.
#Meetoomentum (see figures 1-3) is a project that takes an in-depth artistic look at the spread of the #MeToo movement and its use across twitter. Metoomentum emerged as a way to have a clear understanding of the #metoo movement outside of the lens of filters. Media opinions, and algorithms.
They took raw data and explored what it was saying without the spin attached (citation). It allowed people to visualize how widespread the movement really was. The raw data showed that people were mostly discussing sexual abuse/ harassment/ assault. They talked about it in reference to their personal experience, people in positions of power and the actions they would be taking to change their reality.
The use of #blacklivesmatter has spread around the world. The use of the hashtag spikes after police violence events and the organizers have rolled out campaigns to maintain a list of people who were victimized by the police.
The Pew Research center polled people to get a better understanding of how they viewed political activity on social media. They analyzed hashtags and polled people’s attitudes and drew conclusions about whether activism in the social media age is well received (Anderson, 2019). Based on that research the answer is a resounding yes.
People’s attitudes are changing about social justice causes and how they affect their lives. They are able to articulate the key issues that causes have and how they would like to be supported. People polled were entering discussions and participating in both online and offline protest activities.
The way that social media has been able to clearly influence the way that we view our world has been interesting to explore. The growth of technology has worked hand in hand with meida to help people to connect. We can easily share our experiences and find ways to relate to each other through our shared experiences. Social Justice movements on the internet have really worked to create a space where marginalized people can use their voices to make the world a better place to live and be yourself.