Does a hashtag have the power to change the world? Last week, students across the nation discussed the value of utilizing social media for social justice issues in our #DoNowNigeria post. We asked students, Do you think the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls is making a difference in the kidnapping case of more than 200 Nigerian school girls? Or do you think the hashtag is ineffective and oversimplifying the issue? What are the opportunities/challenges of using social media for social justice issues?
More than a month ago, Boko Haram, a radical Islamist Nigerian terrorist group, kidnapped 200 girls in Chibok village. While 50 girls escaped, the remaining, according to the leaders of the terrorist group, will be sold as slaves. Initially, the president of Nigeria failed to respond to the situation. Yet, after the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls appeared on Twitter, the news of the kidnapping spread over the Internet, calling for leaders to take action. According to the Guardian newspaper, this hashtag was first used on April 23rd at the opening ceremony for a Unesco event honoring the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt as the 2014 World Book Capital City. Ibrahim M. Abdullahi, a Nigerian lawyer, tweeted the words from a speech by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, vice-president of the World Bank for Africa.
Public figures around the world from Malala Yousafzai to Ellen Degeneres have tweeted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to bring awareness. However, some opponents argue that this new hashtag is merely another example of “hashtag activism” and will not bring any results.
The majority of students agreed that while #BringBackOurGirls brought awareness to the issue, overall, the hashtag alone will not solve the problem. Change will happen if people act.
More than just a hashtag
Students argued that #BringBackOurGirls made a positive impact by bringing awareness to the situation.
— εrin. (@ErinRodenberg) May 19, 2014
— ѕωαgмαттy❄️ (@mattilda_ann) May 22, 2014
— Dakota Lolar (@LolarSchool) May 20, 2014
But it’s just a hashtag
Other students, however, disputed that the hashtag will not bring the girls back.
— James Ruan (@JRJamesRuan) May 22, 2014
— Jack Butler (@18jbut) May 20, 2014
— Denise Rodriguez (@DeniseR70771203) May 19, 2014
Who should help solve this problem?
Some students questioned if America should get involved to save the girls.
— dhinesh raj (@DmvRaj) May 21, 2014
— Sherman Dong (@shermandong) May 20, 2014
We need more action!
Most students believed that the hashtag brought awareness, but not enough motivation to act.
— Samantha Barnum (@Sam_Barnum) May 22, 2014
— Jasmine Gee (@justjasminegee) May 18, 2014
— Rory (@18_Rory) May 21, 2014