Monday, February 25, 2013

What's In a Hashtag?

Being simply a reflection of offline life, the internet is both great and terrible.  Most of it is great, but the terrible stuff gets more attention. Nowhere is this more evident than in Twitter trending topics and hashtags. As I write, #ThingsGirlsLike is trending.  An example of what this hashtag inspired:

Though it's easy to get caught up in outraged reaction to the awfulness, instead of putting your head in your hands and crying for humanity, direct your attention to two other hashtags that trended earlier this month. The first, #TellAFeministThankYou

  then #WhiteHistoryLessons

I was glued to my phone as both unfolded, alternating between laughter, cringing and the turning on of lightbulbs. Plenty of people were encouraging others to read and learn. Sure, there were trolls, there always are, but the righteous power of these tweeters definitely prevailed.

What's in a hashtag? Sometimes nonsense, hatefulness and defiant ignorance. But other times? It's the collective, coalescing to unpack privilege, to tell the story from a perspective not often enough heard or ignored. 

Jamil Smith, who works for the Melissa Harris Perry show, said this last night:

Smith nailed it.

What's in a hashtag? Waking up.