Monday, October 27, 2014

Hashtag Activism: The Internet Making the World a Better Place

Litterati is an movement where people post pictures of trash on the Internet, and they pick it up. The city looks at these pictures and finds where the most trash is so that they can put more trash cans in those areas. This is an example of hashtag activism, which is raising awareness and starting movements on social media. Hashtag activism has, and will continue to change the world for the better.

Image from Wikimedia Commons
People use hashtag activism to share information on opinions or issues. Others can then look at that information to help them make decisions. Hashtag activism comes in many forms, from #litterati to #stopKony and #ALSicebucketchallenge. These are all hashtags that have informed people on certain issues and caused many to take action. In my mind, there is no doubt that hashtag activism changes the world on a daily basis.
#Litterati helps communities because it makes picking up trash a social experience. It encourages people to take on the issue of pollution in their community. More than 70,000 pieces of trash have been picked up since the start of this movement. The impact has been even larger than that because of the trash cans that have been put in by cities. This is one step closer to a pollution free world. Lots of topics are controversial, but I can't see anybody being opposed to that. The #ALSicebucketchallenge makes a difference on an even larger scale. Everyone with ALS is affected by this because it gives them an overwhelming amount of support. Donating to ALS research can help cure this disease, and that is what so many people have now done.

According to Jeremiah Owyang, there are more than 2 million videos on YouTube related to the ice bucket challenge, with many other related posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. That is how enormous the movement has gotten. Every single one of those people now have at least some idea of what ALS is, and it sparks an idea that they have an obligation to help people less fortunate than themselves. Some videos, particularly the example below, were made by people actually suffering from ALS who took the opportunity to educate others on the importance of raising money for research. The world needs more movements like this, more ways to make it easy and fun for people to get involved.

Anthony Carbajal, diagnosed with ALS at age 26

People who disagree with me would say that dumping some ice on your head doesn’t make you a good person or change the world at all. They would ask "what in the world does this have to do with ALS??" They would also refer to the #stopKony movement in which many people donated to an organization that promised to do just what the hashtag says. Joseph Kony is a man who ordered the abductions of more than 60,000 children. However, more than a third of the money was used to fund promotions and pay salaries. Kony remained a powerful man for a long time. Howard Kurtz from the Daily Download said “The internet is far better at enlightenment than enforcement,” meaning it lets people know what’s going on, but they don’t have any motivation to do anything about it. He said this referring specifically to the Stop Kony movement.

Dumping ice on your head may not make you a great person, but donating to ALS research is definitely a great way to make a difference. That is what many people ended up doing. In fact, since the ice bucket challenge started, donations to ALS research have averaged $35 per second! I thought that was absolutely astonishing. Over the course of 28 days, there was a total of 85 million dollars donated to the cause. The video above is one that very nearly made me cry. I would recommend that you watch it just to see what kind of effect the Ice Bucket Challenge has had. To some, it has nothing to do with the donations. The millions of videos give those with ALS so much hope and happiness. The feeling of being loved and cared about is almost overwhelming for many of these people. Now to talk about the #Litterati movement. Nobody has anything bad to say about this, because there is nothing bad to say! There is no doubt that it has and is continuing to make a difference. Who could possibly be against a cleaner, healthier earth? That’s right. Not a single person. As for the #stopKony movement, it did little to help catch the man, but it did provoke people to try to make a change. This was the point of the movement, and it was the organization’s fault that it didn’t help as much as it could’ve. According to the National Post, 48 hours after the Kony video was posted, the organization had received a total of 5 million dollars in donations. All of that income should've been used for a better purpose, such as funding the people that were trying to stop Kony. The movement had such good intentions and so many people believed in it. It really did spark something in people’s minds, and they did something about it. The fact that the people donated so much money should be enough to prove that hashtag activism makes positive changes in the world. With some of these statistics in mind, I would say that the internet is better at enforcement than some might think.


To conclude, hashtag activism is a great and easy way to make the world a better place. The fact that it is so accessible to so many people can make movements so much bigger than if the movements were out on the streets. To be a good digital citizen, it is important to be aware of these movements. Taking part in them and helping it grow and spread is also a good thing to do. Some of the comments on my post led me to find further articles addressing hashtag activism. There are many spin-offs of the Ice Bucket Challenge including the Rice Bucket Challenge to fight hunger in India and the Rubble Bucket Challenge for the victims of bombs in Gaza. The problem with these is that they weren't original. They never really got off the ground. Both of those have the word "bucket" and "challenge" in the name. If organizations want to raise money or awareness for their cause, then they need to come up with original ideas. Another issue addressed in the comments a few times was that of the #stopKony movement. I have seen the video associated with the movement, and now know why so many people have donated. It is a very moving video. I would have donated myself if I didn't know that so much of the revenue would be used for salaries and other promotions. The last hashtag that was brought up in the comments was #DudesGreetingDudes. This hashtag is all about how street harassment, contrary to the popular belief, is not about just saying “hi”. Elon James White started this hashtag to help fight street harassment. I checked it out and think that it is absolutely hilarious, but brings attention to a serious topic. It is another great example of how much hashtag activism can do for the world. It really clarifies how bad street harassment is. In the end, nothing has changed on my views of hashtag activism. It will always be one of the factors contributing to making the world a better place.


  1. This is a great blog post, Hayden! Your post made me realize that social media has a huge impact on the world in ways I never expected. It is great that you chose a topic that highlights social media in a positive way. I participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and before I had I did not have a clue what it was. Now because of social media I am more informed about ALS and have given numerous donations. It was the same for #stopKony. Your post also makes me wonder, why do you think more organization don't use social media to raise more awareness to their cause? I would love to know you opinion. Thanks again for showing me the good that can come from social media.

    Your fellow blogger,

    1. Hi, gvp2000! Thanks for your contribution to my post. I believe that more organizations don't use social media to support their cause because they haven't quite caught up with present day. They are still using other ways to obtain publicity. The ice bucket challenge was a great example of how much social media can help a cause. I am positive that there will be many more similar movements in the years to come. As you can see in the article at the bottom, many other people have tried to make similar things to work. They just weren't very original, so they didn't work out. Hopefully there will be more creative and fun ideas in the future.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Great post Hayden, I think you did a great job of acknowledging the opposing view and explaining why it is wrong. I was shocked that over 2 million videos on the ALS Ice Bucket Challange were posted on youtube. I now have a better view of hashtags in my mind, before you posted this I was only aware of the kind of hashtags that get you more instagram followers. Do you think in the future hashtags will be used for better or worst? What do you think we can do to prevent corruptive hashtags like the #kony2012 campaign? Thanks for the post!

    Keep blogging,

    1. Thanks for reading my article, InvasiveSpecies. The fact about the videos on YouTube surprised me too when I first read it. I'm glad that I could have such a positive effect on your views on hashtags. I believe that hashtags in the future will be used for the better. The ice bucket challenge was a wonderful example of a way that social media can change the world. I believe that other organizations will follow suit to further the donations to their cause. To address your second question, I would like to say that I think that the #kony2012 movement was a great idea. I do not want to put it out there that I think it was a bad idea. Some of the money certainly did go towards what the company said it would do. Just not enough. I believe that people need to be informed about exactly what their money is going to do. That would help them decide whether or not to donate.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Loved this post, Hayden! I think you did a really nice job balancing different people's views on the topics. You did a really great job of talking about each of the subtopics individually, and yet bringing them all together under that blanket of Hashtag Activism. I'm wondering what your opinion is to why the funding for the #StopKony wasn't used as it should have been, and how you think we could prevent that in future fundraisers like this. Overall, I think you did a really great job noting about how the internet could be used for good things, and not just the bad things that everyone seems to talk about. Great Job!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Elder Mckinley! I'm glad you enjoyed my work. The #StopKony campaign was funded by the group Invisible Children. They promised that donations would help to catch Kony and put him behind bars. The actuality was that the money was spent to make the atrocity more well known to the public. Hopefully more fundraisers that end up in the same way as this one don't happen. However, I think that it would be helpful if organizations would point out exactly what will happen to the donations. They need to show the public what it is all being spent on.
      Thanks again!

  4. Another new hashtag has just popped up in response to the viral street harassment video of the last week. #DudesGreetingDudes, as shared in this article was created by a man to try and explain to others why street harassment is NOT just about "saying hi" to women. That particular video (Hollaback) has been EVERYWHERE lately, and is sparking lots of conversation and debate. Though the #DudesGreetingDudes hashtag can be seen as quite funny, it actually draws attention to a very serious issue, and hopefully its innocuous moniker may reach people in a way that other hashtags haven't been able to. What do you think?

  5. Thank you for offering this new information, Holly Gerla! I have not heard anything about this until now. The #DudesGreetingDudes is pretty funny, but you're right; it's a great way to point out an issue. Some of the things that people said and did in that video were pretty disgusting. If it takes a hilarious but thought provoking trend to get people to see what is happening, then so be it. I hope that this hashtag will blow up and get the world to see what is happening. This is a great way to get people to understand that it has absolutely nothing to do with saying hi.
    Thanks for teaching me about this!


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