When was the last time you clicked on a hashtag to get news updates? Clicked on Facebook for online news? Or even simply scrolled through Twitter to learn what's happening in the world right now?
Not too long ago I bet!
Social media these days is infectious. News travels faster than it ever has in the history of news media via the many applications. This social media epidemic stays up to date and has managed to keep up with the fast paced world we live in today. Herein, these applications have also provided a space for the extremely politically correct dialogues that are necessary to be had in the world today. Furthermore, it offers the opportunity for a multitude of awareness campaigns to be carried out virtually. A lot has become possible simply with the command of a click.
Unfortunately with this convenience comes a tendency where users are inclined to derail from what is important and what is not. They tend to lose focus of the main objectives of particular campaigns. Moreover, one of the biggest difficulties happens to be in letting people know that these campaigns go well beyond social media.
For instance, in 2015, Maldives witnessed the start of a powerful online campaign against street harassment under the hashtag '#Nufoshey'. This hashtag represents the journey of two young Maldivian women set out to provide an online space for victims of street harassment to call out hostile remarks and callers alike. As well as provide mandatory information regarding laws against harassment and the procedures of reporting such incidents. It also educates the public about how one can help these victims. Given the relevance of the topic to the current times, it successfully ignited much needed dialogue about the issue of street harassment.
Regrettably the dialogue typically ended where it began, with the actual motive of the campaign astray and the discussion stranded online. If a thousand contributors provide support virtually, perhaps only a fraction of this group is seen to step in a situation as such on the streets. People who join the cause online are more than encouraged to step in real-life situations as well, where an individual maybe in need of help against street harassment.
Another notable example would be the '#savekulhudhuhfushikulhi' campaign that ignited last year with a scorching urgency to save the mangrove of H Dh. Kulhudhuhfushi. Local activists took to the internet to express their discontent over the government unveiling its plans to build a new airport. This 'development' had threatened to destroy an entire sensitive mangrove ecosystem. Activists from around the country worked tirelessly to convince the government about the importance of mangroves by emphasizing on cultural activities such as rope making as well as the importance of local biodiversity and national significance of the mangroves, on top of their important ecological role the mangroves play in climate change.
With every update immortalized online with '#savekulhudhuhfushikulhi', the activists displayed their determination to bring to light the grave losses that may be imposed on the island's ecosystem come the commencement of the proposed project. However this campaign needed much more than just an online effort to be a success. It needed young individuals to step out and express the same online dismay in person as well. Unfortunately, the pragmatic rallying that this campaign needed remained unreceived, subsequently failing to halt the construction.
Globally, a perfect example of an online campaign would be the take down of the successful Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. What started out as a journalistic effort of American journalist Ronan Farrow in 'The New Yorker', was then further stimulated by Hollywood actress Rose McGowan who took to Twitter to push the news into the public eye. This was followed by, a legion of virtual contributors who made sure that Mr. Weinstein will be held accountable. These monumental efforts also marked the influential impact of the '#metoo' movement. A movement meant to highlight the extensive prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, particularly at one’s work place.
Sadly, we are also witnessing the misuse of the '#metoo' movement . In some factions, it has evolved to being two customary words that people simply strung along to their tweets or Facebook statuses for the sensational impact it can gather. Trivializing this tag can lead to a lot of confusion. For example, Brandi Glanville, an American TV personality once cited '#metoo' in a petty, retaliating tweet at American actor Gerard Butler. The tweet was about an unrelated quarrel between the two. Glanville has since received a lot of criticism for citing '#metoo', as her tweet had nothing to do with what the campaign stood for.
These campaigns have received immense support and have surely made people recognize the importance of standing for a cause. However, it is unfortunate that such important social messaging is at times limited in impact, to the virtual world. Online support is important, but fighting for the entirety of a cause should be of far more importance. If not, one may end up becoming a bystander despite having incessantly shared, liked and on commented on the subject.
Martin Luther King Jr once famously said 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter'. Perhaps this needs to be reevaluated with the exception of technology.
Perhaps, just perhaps, our lives begin to end the day we become vocal online yet silent in person about things that matter.