I’m sure by now you’ve seen this hashtag on every social media platform you’re on. You probably know what it represents or you might not. But to be honest who cares?! If even Justin Timberlake in all his might and busy touring schedule can post a solemn picture of him holding a piece of paper with a whole statement relating to the hashtag on it, what’s your excuse? After all, there is a huge possibility that your tweet will be the one that members of the Boko Haram see that causes them to abandon their entire doctrine of terrorism for a less violent passion perhaps something along the lines of mini golf. Because I undeniably cannot think about anything that could scare a heavily armed and vicious African terrorist group more than 14 year old girls retweeting about an issue that they most likely have no idea about in a country they couldn’t even point out on a map.
Don’t get me wrong. I am unquestionably supportive of the hashtag and of individuals posting about this unfortunate circumstance. In its purest form, social media allows us to take a giant step in the right direction in terms of helping out others in adverse situations. But I fear that it might be transforming our minds to believe that it’s the only step we should take. In the past couple of years I have noticed a growing dilemma among American teenagers (possibly all teenagers) that I termed “charitable sharing.” This is the prevalent mindset that raising awareness about social issues, especially those concerning the less fortunate, through social media is equivalent to lending a hand in a more impactful way. Essentially there seems to be a growing trend to hop onto the latest relief effort bandwagon and in my opinion “outcare” each other. Every time a new violent situation erupts, my Facebook feed becomes overpopulated with pictures and videos. There is no doubt that raising awareness to issues through catchy slogans and hashtags on social media is great perhaps even necessary.
But when a tweet by Chris Brown using “#BringBackOurGirls” has more retweets (around 10,000) than a Twitter account dedicated to taking action to help the actual relief effort has followers (3,929) , social media has failed us. Or should I say we have failed it and ourselves? The most alarming aspect of this whole situation is that it is not an isolated incident. This situation in Nigeria in which through social media our generation propels a hashtag about a social issue concerning terrorism to the top of the news charts and just left it there seems oddly familiar..
Remember #KONY2012? You probably do. Who could possibly forget? Now a harder question. Do you remember the date April 20, 2012? This was the planned date for the worldwide “Cover the Night” campaign for the KONY movement that you likely signed up for but didn’t go. Overall, the campaign was reported as a huge disappointment in terms of turnout. Records confirmed even famous cities such as Vancouver reporting a turnout as little as 17 people. An incredibly bizarre statistic for a relief effort who’s video accumulated 100 million views in its first 6 days. So the next time you’re on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr and you see a pressing issue facing the less fortunate, don’t come up with a witty hashtag or slogan. Instead, take a moment and ask yourself…#whatcanIreallyDOtohelp.