Section: Opinion

‘Hashtag activism’ may be way of the future

Facebook shares of sexual misconduct letter show potential of social media to rouse College community

Who remembers the good old days when Facebook existed purely as a platform to share spring break vacation pictures and wish your uncle a happy birthday? Now, when I inevitably succumb to procrastination and check my social media accounts, Facebook no longer offers the mindless form of distraction I seek and instead serves more as an actual news source and space for sharing ideas, articles and videos.

Media outlets have named the recent popularity of using social media to promote a cause as “hashtag activism.” Notable examples of hashtag activism include #BlackLivesMatter, #YesAllWomen and perhaps the campaign that started it all: #Kony2012. I admit I used to think hashtag activism was mildly annoying. Surely this wasn’t what Mark Zuckerberg envisioned Facebook to be. On a less petty note, I was at a loss about what hashtag activism actually accomplished. Surely a real, live protest could pack a bigger punch.

Recently, I’ve had a change of heart. I realize Facebook statuses and Twitter hashtags are the virtual megaphones of our generation. The power of social media lies in our ability to access such platforms from the palm of our hands.

With the click of a button we have the power to start a movement. Twitter played a major role in allowing activists to organize protests during the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions. Supporters of the Arab Spring movement who could not attend protests still showed their virtual solidarity.

Earlier this week, an open letter titled “To Kenyon College, for failing my little sister,” written by Michael Hayes ’14, addressed Kenyon’s failure to properly address an issue of sexual misconduct. The essay has over 700 shares and hundred comments showing support and chastising the College for what Hayes says was its inept response.

I am thankful this article was shared with the community, as it has jump-started a dialogue about an issue plaguing college campuses around the country. There is much room for improvement in addressing sexual assault at Kenyon.

I’ve heard professors and parents lament about the decline of “real” activism on college campuses. My response to this argument is that the popularity of hashtag activism doesn’t have to detract from other forms of protest. In November 2015, members of the Kenyon community held a sit-in to show solidarity for students experiencing racial intolerance at schools such as the University of Missouri and Yale University.

Next time you find yourself scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed on a “study break” I urge you to celebrate and engage in hashtag activism. Like, share, comment and enjoy the freedom to express yourself.

Maya Lowenstein ’18 is a film and sociology major from Toronto. Contact her at 

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