[PRESS RELEASE] Activism Across Platforms: How Social Media Amplifies Grassroot Movements | Difussion #75

July 13, 2022 2:07 pm || By

Social media platforms offer various features to facilitate their users.  One of the features used for the purpose of social activism is the hashtag feature. How the hashtag feature work and the dynamics in their use are interesting things discussed by CfDS UGM in Diffusion #75 in the topic “Activism Across Platforms: How Social Media Amplifies Grassroot Movements”. In this Diffusion invitate Mario Hartanto dan Hilma Nurjaman, CfDS UGM researcher, on Friday 30 June 2022. Diffusion 75 can be re-watched through this link  https://youtu.be/cP9TWIjYECY

What’s Up With Hashtag?

Hilman Nurjaman shared the explanation about the introduction of the hashtag feature and  examples of its activism.  According to Hilman, hashtags can appear at the beginning, middle, or end  of social media post, and that can link users on a particular topic through real-time online spaces, with symbolized by the # symbol. The hashtags work by connecting the conversations of various users into one collection, which appears on trending pages or search fields. 

Twitter became a social media platform that is known to facilitate hashtags well and massively. Some of the big and influential hashtags, such as #MeToo, which was uploaded by Alyssa Milano, and invited the audience to reply with the phrase #MeToo, for those who have experienced harassment. Twitter generated a response of around 1.7 million tweets in the first week the hashtag was uploaded. The next one is #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, which is known natioanlly and internationally after the public demonstrations over the deaths of black citizens in the USA. #SaveThePlanet is the other big hashtag on social media as a movement to raise public awareness to change the condition of the earth to be green again. 

“Hashtags facilitate public participation in cyberspace that does not require direct action as is the effort made in conventional activism. In digital activism participation is done by sharing, liking, sending, or re-sending” said Hilman. 

Hilman also said that the phenomenon of using hashtags is part of the effective public phenomenon. It is intended as a textual public formation that is expressed through emotions online. The aim to be achieved from using hashtags is to build discussions around pressing social issues that can be a way to attract public attention through online discourse. 

Digital Activism Through Hashtag Feature

Mario Hartanto explains how hashtags help digital activism become more widespread as a reinforcement for traditional activism. Digital activism is considered a form of social activism activity mediated by the use of technology to promote social movements. What makes it different from traditional activism is the involvement of the participants. Participation in traditional activism requires more effort to gather in the same space and time, using conventional outdoor media. Meanwhile, in digital activities, social media features are facilitated to gather and use visual digital content on the platform. 

Digital activism is mostly chosen to be used for reasons of space that tends to be safer for speaking.  In terms of mass gathering it is also easier, can be a mediator between civilians and power holders, and can make public opinion through discourse. Regarding its limitations, the use of social media for activism cannot be separated from abuse, either by the public or by the government. This is related to the existence of censorship, anonymity, and cancel culture on the internet. 

“This doesn’t mean that digital activism can completely replace traditional activism. Both must go hand in hand and complement each other, because both digital and traditional activism have their weaknesses. Digital activism is used as a trigger for the movement” said Mario. 

Mario at the end of his presentation advised us to always remember that all of our voices matter wherever we try to make a sound. Don’t have to be an expert to start caring about an issue around us, because caring can start with the intention to get involved and share. Use the hashtag feature as a bis and common force for social change for the better.