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#NewsHourChats: Can Hashtag Activism Have Real Impact?



This past week, Twitter and Facebook users have been overwhelmed with videos of people dumping buckets of ice over their heads as they take part in the#icebucketchallenge, a now viral effort to raise awareness of ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Others have taken to social media to discuss the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer and the ensuing protests and violence in Ferguson, Missouri. Hashtags such as #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and #HandsUpDontShoot have spurred an online conversation about race and justice.


What do these hashtags have in common (other than the fact that they are trending on Twitter)? Both are examples of hashtag activism — a term coined to describe the use of viral hashtags to raise awareness and foster discussion about specific issues and causes via social media. Other examples include #Kony2012,#BringBackOurGirls and #YesAllWomen.

What do you think? Does hashtag activism foster a false sense of accomplishment, allowing Facebook and Twitter users to feel they have done something when in reality their social media post will have no tangible impact? Or is it an important method of raising awareness, one with the potential to affect real world change? Share your thoughts in a Twitter chat from 1-2 p.m. EDT this Thursday, Aug. 21. Stacia Brown of ColorLines will participate through her Twitter handle, @slb79. Follow along and join in using the hashtag #NewsHourChats.


By Nora Daly | Audience Engagement Specialist | PBS NewsHour

The full version of this post originally appeared on PBS NewsHour's Rundown blog.

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