Hashtag Activism Leads to Social Change?

  • #YesAllWomen
  • #Bringbackourgirls
  • #Kony2012
  • Ice Bucket Challenge

The same critique pops up for all of these social media trends: Are these hashtags and videos actually doing anything to help solve the issue?

It took a little under two days for the hashtag, #WhyIStayed/#WhyILeft, to become a media sensation after the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal, and I find it hard for anyone to argue that it isn’t raising awareness on an important topic.

According to the Washington Post, Beverly Gooden, a domestic violence survivor, created the hashtag after many people questioned why his wife, Janay Palmer, didn’t leave him after the assault.

Gooden responded with the hashtag, #WhyIStayed

It was heartbreaking and inspiring to read through multiple pages of this shared hashtag. The tweets were a mix of domestic violence survivors and other peoples’ comments after reading them.

The fact that people’s initial response to the Ray Rice scandal is to ask, “Why didn’t she leave?” is an answer in itself that there needs to be much more awareness on domestic violence. I’ll admit when I first heard about the story, I asked myself similar questions. Then I started thinking about all the sacrifices and problems that arise when dealing with the issue.

Basically, it all boils down to that fact that leaving a abusive relationship just isn’t that simple–especially when finances and children are involved. #WhyIStayed gives a voice to the voiceless and helps break a silence that many people have been harboring for a long time.

Hashtag activism gives people an outlet to express their thoughts in a shared, organized setting.  It raises awareness on a topic that many people are unfamiliar with–and, if you really think about it,  isn’t that the first step in creating change?