Word on the street Hashtag activist

Sat, Sep 29, 2012, 01:00

What it means: Think you can change the world in 140 characters or less? Reckon you can depose a dictator by unfriending him? Then you must be a hashtag activist, ready to rise up at the drop of a tweet and fight for noble causes – as long as it doesn’t entail actually leaving your computer station. The face of protest has changed. In the past activists would be on the street, waving placards, chaining themselves to railings and lobbing Molotov cocktails. Now, they simply launch a web protest, mobilising their Tweeps around a hashtag, and setting up Facebook groups to register their disapproval. With hashtag activism, you can have a clear conscience while never putting yourself in the firing line.

Where it comes from: With world-changing events being recorded in real time via Twitter and YouTube, the internet has become the new arena of political protest. And a new breed of protestor has evolved, who can click from one cause to another in the riot-free comfort of their own home. Some people, however, are getting fed up of the constant emails seeking support for some worthy cause or other, and are questioning whether hashtag activism can really make a blind bit of difference. Hashtags may be handy little things, but it seems they can’t stop famine or prevent civil war, although one schoolgirl’‘s Facebook campaign did result in her school providing more nutritious lunches.

How to say it: “It’s great that you don’t want to be just another hashtag activist, but hosting a coffee morning isn’t exactly frontline, is it?”

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