U.S.A. As a college student, my parents and professors criticize me for scrolling through thousands of little informational pieces on a small cellular device. However, despite the clash between generations about what technology is doing to Millenials, there might be a hidden grace in the 140 characters.
In 2006, Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone created a website, — Twitter, — where people can tell their followers every little detail of their life in a short text called a tweet. When the website debuted, it received harsh criticism for its lack of purpose, other than to tell people about insignificant details of one’s life.
However, despite the criticism, Twitter serves as an international news and awareness platform— a fact that no one expected to see from a social media site. All of a sudden, tweets are not about what sandwich one had for lunch or a famous song lyric, but a call to action. Recently, in 2014, Venezuela protesters went to Twitter to show their country in turmoil under a corrupt government while international media turned a blind eye. The hashtag, #SOSVenezuela, brought social media spotlight onto Venezuela. With one click, online visitors could find thousands of graphic pictures and updates about the true Venezuelan crisis.
Critics such as radio moderator Rush Limbaugh are the first to attack the use of the hashtag as an effective method of action as evident in his rant about First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama tweeted a picture with her frowning and holding a sign stating #BringBackOurGirls as a message to the nearly 270 Nigerian girls captured by Boka Haram, a radical Islamic terrorist group who believes that Western education is sinful. Mr. Limbaugh is correct in stating that a hashtag in a tweet will not save these girls from the radical terrorism associated with Boka Haram. However, he is underestimating the power that a simple symbol has on the media and the world.
No, a hashtag will not barrel through the jungle and save all 270 girls, but that is not the point. The purpose is to inspire and show solidarity. These Nigerian girls will not see the tweets of Malala Yousafzai or Michelle Obama, but millions of others can join together under the hashtag theme. Through this awareness, political leaders can be pressured to do something. After #BringBackOurGirls hit the Internet, the United States and the United Kingdom began promising to take necessary step to find these girls. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan broke his silence and finally addressed the issue in his country.
Now, it is hard to read the news or watch any broadcasts without hearing about the crisis in Nigeria. An insignificant key on one’s keyboard sparked a fire in the media and the hearts of many when it comes to bringing awareness to these girls. So to Mr. Limbaugh and other critics, Michelle Obama’s act of solidarity with these girls will not prevent terrorism, but it is certainly making news waves and that is the first step in saving lives and changing the world.
– Megan Riethmiller