Created: March 2017
Last Updated: April 2020
This learning experience is part of a playlist — two or more learning experiences focused on specific areas of the digital world. You can find this playlist, Creating the Change You Want, here. This particular learning experience is the fourth in a sequence of six. Learning experiences in a playlist build off of each other, but they were designed so that they can also be completed on their own!
|Group or individual activity:
|13-18 years old
|Online / offline elements:
|This learning experience contains an offline activity and a challenge that requires the use of a computer or mobile device.
Main area: Civic and Political Engagement
Additional areas: Content Production, Digital (Literacy), Information Quality, Media (Literacy), Positive / Respectful Behavior
|This learning experience has been created by Youth and Media and is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionShareAlike 4.0 International license. For more information, please visit https://www.dcrp.berkman.harvard.edu/about
Explore how hashtags have been effective in promoting social movements and identify how hashtags on social media can help you raise awareness around an advocacy issue. You’ll also develop your own hashtag and methods of promotion for a cause you care about.
Computer or mobile device with Internet access
[Optional] Pen or pencil
Article: Where's the Color in Kids' Lit? Ask the Girl with 1,000 Books (And Counting) - by Meg Anderson (National Public Radio)
Article: ‘Arepa, the Taco Is with You’ — the Hashtag of Solidarity from Mexico to Venezuela - by Elizabeth Rivera (Global Voices)
Article: Social Media Plays Crucial Role in Brazil's ‘Vinegar Revolt’ Protests - by Debora Baldelli (Global Voices)
Article: These 10 Twitter Hashtags Changed the Way We Talk About Social Issues - by Tanya Sichynsky (The Washington Post)
Article: Narrative Agency in Hashtag Activism: The Case of #BlackLivesMatter - by Guobin Yang
While individuals often use specific social media platforms in advocacy campaigns for particular reasons, these platforms share certain characteristics. One helpful common feature is the hashtag (#). Hashtags allow us to draw attention to our ideas by connecting our posts to others on the same topic. For instance, if we wanted to share videos from our recent football game our striker performed a hat trick, we could include “#football” and “#hattrick” in the description of the video to allow others looking for football videos to see it.
Hashtags are especially useful for advocacy projects. For instance, in the United States, after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida by a police officer, advocates began writing posts about race relations in the U.S., including the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. With the increasing popularity of the hashtag, more and more people were able to see posts about individuals’ experiences as a person of color and their engagement with the police in the United States today by searching for “#BlackLivesMatter.” Through social media activism, Black Lives Matter developed into a powerful advocacy movement supported by influential people.
The hashtag is a powerful form of social media on a global scale, outside of the scope of the United States. When the terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their high school in Chibok, Nigeria, people in Nigeria tried to raise awareness around the issue on social media by posting content online with the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls.” The issue quickly garnered global support, with powerful public figures (e.g., those in the music and / or film [movies / TV] industry, political figures, business leaders) supporting the cause.
When you are advocating for a cause, using hashtags is a great way to reach an audience with your ideas. In this learning experience, we will explore the use of hashtags on social media.
In the "Pop Culture Meets Advocacy” learning experience, you can learn about using pop culture to support your advocacy efforts.
Find a hashtag linked to a cause you care about through Google or a social media platform of your choosing, or come up with your own! After identifying or creating your hashtag, if you’d like, you can use it on your own social media account.
Then, in a paragraph, answer the following:
Does your cause already have a hashtag?
What type of content are people sharing under the hashtag, if there already is one?
If it doesn't have one yet, what hashtag would you give it? Provide a brief description of the process you used to develop this hashtag.
What are some ways you can spread your hashtag through a network?
It’s awesome that you completed this challenge! We are sure that others would love to see what you learned! We encourage you to share your write-up with an educator, mentor, or advisor, or a family member or friend. You can also share your write-up with the Youth and Media team via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please specify the title of the learning experience in the subject line of the email.