Hashtag history

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Last week, I wrote my column about the #YesAllWomen movement, with an assurance that it had staying power. Well, guess what? I was wrong.


As I write this column, #PLLDay is the number one trending topic on Twitter worldwide and #YesAllWomen is no longer on the list. What is #PLLDay? It is the Twitterverse&rsquo;s acknowledgement that the ABC Family television show <em>Pretty Little Liars</em> is premiering tonight.


A quick look at trending hashtags in the United States and Canada were similar: no #YesAllWomen.


I fell for the trap that we see over and over again with Twitter movements; I thought, &ldquo;This is it. This is when people will start caring about women&rsquo;s rights.&rdquo; Silly me.


If you think back to the most recent trending hashtags on Twitter,&nbsp; it&rsquo;s the same story all over again.


The #BringOurGirlsBack movement, which started in response to the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian girls, is the perfect example. There are still people tweeting with this hashtag but many of them are talking about exactly what I&rsquo;m saying here, like @ashabandele who tweeted, &ldquo;We lost focus b/c of a celeb&rsquo;s personal family beef. Let&rsquo;s forgive ourselves that and once again raise our voices. #Day52 #BringBackOurGirls,&rdquo; and @w0nderlayla who tweeted, &ldquo;it seems like the media has completely forgotten about the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, yes they&rsquo;re still missing #bringbackourgirls,&rdquo; and @jamalhbryant who tweeted, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s been 50 days and we must not tire of shouting #bringbackourgirls until they return.&rdquo;


One that stood out to me most was @BrianCraigShow who tweeted, &ldquo;#bringbackourgirls isn&rsquo;t working more girls kidnapped&hellip;&rdquo; (sic), with a link to a <em>BBC</em> article reporting that 20 more women had been kidnapped near to where the original group of schoolgirls had been taken. And his point is spot on: #BringBackOurGirls has not done anything to help this situation. It appears that all it&rsquo;s done is provide thousands of Twitter users the opportunity to feel as though they&rsquo;ve done their part for this particular world issue, forget about it, and move on.


What disappointed me about #YesAllWomen disappearing quickly was the nature of the movement. #BringBackOurGirls was an attempted response to an immediate event that needed immediate action. Social media activism is little help in these types of scenarios. And yes, #YesAllWomen was a reaction to an immediate event, but it was addressing an issue that has been around for decades and that has improved over time but is currently at a standstill. #YesAllWomen was another tool in an arsenal that needs all the tools it can get. It started a conversation, it made people open their eyes to something they&rsquo;d never seen before, it empowered people, and it got them fired up. Then that fire fizzled out like a poorly-lit firecracker.


It seems to me that Twitter movements belong to fleeting moments, like bringing people together after the Boston Marathon bombings with #BostonStrong, and celebrating the birth of Prince George with #RoyalBaby, both of which were among the most popular hashtags of 2013.


Despite some recent fruitless movements, it is hard to forget the role Twitter played during the 2009 Persian Awakening, nicknamed the &ldquo;Twitter Revolution,&rdquo; as well as the Arab Spring, which included revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria, ensuring that Twitter activism will hold its place in history.