Social media has the power to get people’s attention. And when you’ve got people’s attention you’ve got the power to change their mind — and their actions. Hashtags have been used for some fun, but admittedly not wildly important causes.
The top five most widely used hashtags are presently #love (which is nice, nobody’s having a go at this hashtag), #instagood and #me. This seems, on the face of it, to prove the hackneyed idea that social media is filled with narcissistic people who are only interested in showing off (and ideally making somebody else feel worse in the process).
But what about those hashtags that have been used to attempt to raise awareness of important issues and, ultimately, effect real change in the world? Which are the most important hashtags of all time? Here are some of them.
Bring Back Our Girls (#bringbackourgirls)
Following the tragic kidnap of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamic militants, this hashtag brought this terrible story to the attention of everyone all over the world. It’s all too easy for a lot of people, particularly young people, to ignore world news. This hashtag made this issue a world issue and when Michele Obama tweeted her support, this hashtag became one of the most influential and important of all time. Other well-known personalities took this step to support the movement, including Malala and Wyclef Jean.
Carry That Weight (#carrythatweight)
This hashtag was the result of a rape allegation at Columbia University in the US. The hashtag showed support for student Emma Sulkowicz, who vowed to carry a standard dorm sized mattress around with her everywhere until the man she accused of raping her was expelled from the University. Thousands took to Twitter to show support using the hashtag she created to promote her cause.
I Am A Liberian Not A Virus (#IamALiberianNotAVirus)
During the mass hysteria surrounding Ebola, Shoana Solomon created this hashtag to bust the stigma around the disease, which she saw as making the problem worse by stirring up unfounded fears.
I Can’t Breathe (#ICantBreathe)
This hashtag became the slogan for protesting police brutality, sweeping across social media and protest banners all over the world. It appeared following the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer held him in a chokehold. Garner could be heard on a recording of the incident repeatedly saying ‘I can’t breathe.’
Umbrella Revolution (#UmbrellaRevolution)
This hashtag-coined term became the nickname for an entire movement during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. Peaceful protesters found themselves frequently attacked by pepper spray and tear gas by police, so began to carry umbrellas to protect themselves. The term Umbrella Revolution became emblematic of the entire protest and the brutality it exposed.
Social media has an amazing way of uniting people and hashtags are one of the finest examples of this. They are a way to say ‘me too’ or ‘count me in’. Whether it’s showing your support for somebody else from across the globe, or accessing information which can help you to become more informed about the issues in the world, hashtags are a vital part of the way we now share information. Long may their reign!