"Seek out the society of your boon companions, drink, play, talk bawdy, and amuse yourself. One must sometimes commit a sin out of hate and contempt for the Devil, so as not to give him the chance to make one scrupulous over mere nothings…" –Luther

I suppose at least a couple of folks at the BHT know that when I express doubts about hashtag activism it’s not because I don’t think the internet can be used to bring attention to things.

I mean, yeah, Internet whining got Mozilla to fire its CEO. So I guess, yeah, mass-scale cyber-crying is good for making people who care about others thinking they’re nice wave token gestures in the direction of some social justice crusade or another.

But 90% of the reason for doing it is preening and letting everyone else know how righteous you are.

Oh, a bunch of whiners got someone to take down a blog post? Yeah, that matters.

#Kony2012 #BanBossy #BringBackOurGirls #YesAllSpecialSnowflakes


Hashtag activism is great when you’re the first few to do it. After that, it’s just more noise among the signal. It’s the MLM of online communication. #curmudgeon


Hashtivism is just status signaling.

To a large extent, yes. But, in at least this most recent case, hashtavism appears to have accomplished its stated goal of having CT change position and take down the post. So it wasn’t *just* status signaling, was it?

The bullet points from my perspective look like this:

  1. Hashtavism’s primary immediate effect is “raising awareness” and “status signaling”
  2. The vast majority of hashtavists won’t take any action beyond the hashtagging.
  3. Given 1 and 2, hashtavism frequently produces far more heat than light.
  4. There are also opportunists who will use the hashtag to build their audience through cheap populsim

However, raised awareness may (and in this case eventually did) effect positive change. So it can’t be all bad, right? End doesn’t justify the means, but we haven’t really established that the means are wrong, just that we have a relative unease with them, for the reasons listed above.

I still find myself thinking I shouldn’t/won’t loudly participate in hashtavism, but I’m not gonna tell others that they shouldn’t.

The purpose of marching in a protest is to signal that there’s a mob capable of violence if it doesn’t get its way.

Hashtivism is just status signaling.


it could be construed as doing a good thing so as to be noticed by others.

Sure, but is hashtag activism any different than any other sort of activism in that way? Hashtags require a lot less energy and commitment than, say, marching in a protest, but when the cause is just we don’t typically level accusations of “doing good so as to be noticed” at the marchers…

when the right hand hashtagged what the left hand was doing …

it might seem a bit weird for some to do hashtags and twitter activism because in addition to not necessarily doing a ton (depending on the setting) it could be construed as doing a good thing so as to be noticed by others. Or at least, Randy, that’s my suggestion/guess as to what can seem a little off about hashtag activism.

On #Activism

I’ve been trying to understand why hashtag activism feels kind of wrong to me.

I think it’s because it’s more like talking about someone than talking to someone.

“Awareness” is thrown around a lot. But I’m pretty sure everyone is already aware of breast cancer. I didn’t learn about it by a pink ribbon. Pink ribbons seem like pretty much of a waste to me.

And hashtags. I don’t know.

Live by the hashtag, die by the hashtag…

Matthew, I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want opinions. I agree with you that most of the time folks just stop with the hashtag, which is minimally useful at best. (Remember all the people who tinted their profile pics green for Egypt? Or was it Iran? Or was it some other color? Perhaps I’m illustrating my own point.)