Hashtag Usage as a Wave of Solidarity via Social Media

Social network Twitter has been fulfilled with the symbol of hash (#) recently. To tag not only a thing appearing in a photograph or a written post, people have also started using it as a sign of solidarity. What preceded the use of this kind of hashtags? Unfortunately, the boom of usage of it gives credit to those who kill, kidnap, or do any other socially outrageous or unaccepted activity.

Has the usage of hashtagging become the main form of digital activism?

It depends. It can either be used as a complete nonsense (#woot, #yay) or as a keyword (#Madonna, #AIDS). As we can see, the tag can do as little or as much as it is supposed to. Hashtags are supposed to be simple, informing and short – one or max two-wordy. There are many social media trends that make the original use of hashtagging incorrect. Generally, it is a great social tool to express an opinion, raise a discussion or warn people.

As years have flown, the usage of hashtags has raised. The proof is the hashtag of #SuperBowl. In 2012, the usage of this sign was only 7 %, whilst the usage in 2014 climbed up to 58 %. Moreover, it became more recognizable and important than the usage of URL.

url vs hashtag

Image taken from TagBoard.com

When are hashtags unnecessary?

According to the head of Twitter marketing, Anne Mercogliano, hashtags are useful when joining a conversation. On the other hand, Twitterers should avoid using hashtags when “driving for a specific click that you’re looking for off Twitter,” as she suggests in a study by Matt Southern. Therefore, hashtags are not necessary in some cases but are wanted in other – depending on the needs of Tweeters.

Hashtags showing support

Since 2013, hashtags have been frequently used throughout the Internet with supportive quotes on worldwide issues, conflicts, or any movements online. The boom is because of natural disasters, terrorist attacks or other “bad news”. What hashtags were the most powerful the last two years?

#YesAllWomen was spread through Twitter May 24 and 25, 2014, as a campaign against violence on women. The inception of this hashtag was created upon the Isla Vista killings near a university campus in Santa Barbara, California. A young man who killed students near the University of California was known for men’s rights against females. He posted videos on YouTube saying he would punish women for not having sex with him. As soon as this case was published, people started supporting the rights of women. Men also posted #NotAllMen showing they didn’t support the boy’s ideology.

#HeForShe appeared on Twitter after Emma Watson, a British actress and supporter of human rights, gave her speech September 20, 2014 at the United Nations conference. This campaign supports the gender equality. Watson’s speech met with great success as it was shown on Twitter – over one million of users felt the same way as her.


Screenshot taken from @EmWatson Twitter account

tterers by typing #BostonStrong reacted to the deadly terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon which took place April 15, 2013. The two bombs were fired near the finish line. Three people were killed and over 250 injured. The world united and showed solidarity and mutual pain with Boston via this tag.

#BringBackOurGirls unfortunately didn’t bring “our” girls back. This hashtag whirlwind filled Twitter April 14, 2014 after 276 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from school in Chibok by Boko Haram – a group created by the Islamic State sect. This hashtag has been tweeted over three million times and got into awareness of people who had no idea about the case. It became a significant social movement also supported by international VIP’s – like the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. Nevertheless, the campaign so far remains unsuccessful as 219 Chibok schoolgirls out of 276 are still missing.


Screenshot taken from YouTube video by UpTakeVideo

#IAmAhmed hashtag showed unity of people calling for justice after a schoolboy with Muslim roots was arrested in Texas September 14, 2015. A school teacher from MacArthur High in Irving assumed that the homemade clock the 14 year-old Ahmed Mohamed constructed looked like a bomb. On this behalf, the school principal called police which searched his belongings and then arrested him. Ahmed was suspended from school until September 16.

#JeSuisCharlie is another popular hashtag used among Twitterers that began January 7, 2015. The French “I am Charlie” supported French satifical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. This hashtag was used as a support to the 12 killed workers, who were shot in their offices by the Islamic State sect, and as condolences to the families of the victims. Je suis Charlie was even displayed on billboards around the world as well as animated cartoon The Simpsons. There were more than five million tweets flowing through Twitter within two days of the massacre.


Screenshot of #JeSuisCharlie tweets of the world from Twitter.com

#JeSuisSousse was firstly used June 26, 2015 as renewal of #JeSuisCharlie after the Islamic State shot 38 innocent people in Sousse, Tunisia with Kalashnikov. This attack took place at the tourist resort at Port El Kantaoui. The greatest loss was experienced by the British, Irish and German. The 23 year-old Seifiddine Rezgui Yacoubi, also known as the perpetrator, killed himself shortly after.

#PrayForParis or #Pray4Paris has been written by over hundreds of  thousands Twitter users within two days of its existence. This hashtag was created on the behalf of the most recent terrorist attack which occurred November 13, 2015. Islamic State took their chance to kill innocent people in the North-East part of Paris late in the evening. The results showed over a hundred people were killed and a few dozens injured. This hashtag showed solidarity from the world feeling for the great loss of France. Along with this hashtag, people who actually were in Paris also wrote #PorteOuverte (translated as Open Door). This hashtag helped Parisians involved in the attack to find a shelter for the night, a beer to drink or a shower to take.


Screenshot from Twitter.com by @ariannahuf

What does hashtagging mean to us in the times of social media?

As seen, people use hashtags to show solidarity and support. The active users (those who use effective hashtags) “work” for the media itself (the so-called “slacktivism”). The hash icon is a symbol of expressing an opinion and become a member of a growing community of shared beliefs or conversation. It is one of the greatest tools in modern social media. Furthermore, the activism of hashtag is raising with every worldly-concerning issue happening nowadays.


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