The Power of the Hashtag

As we all know, the hashtag is a generally new tool. New enough still that there are programs that are still upgrading their dictionaries to include it as an official word. (I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve gotten the irritating squiggly red line under ‘hashtag’ as though I’m trying to create a new word; like I’m that powerful. lol)

But while its current role is still relatively new to the world of language and to modern society, we cannot forget that it is nonetheless a POWERFUL tool and at times takes on a life of its own.

It has the ability to span the planet within seconds. It has the ability to help educate, teach and share information and knowledge across the waters of our planet. It has the power to bring together people for a just cause and help unite a broken population.

It also has the ability to propagate the worse of humanity. It can rally hate just as much as love. It can be just as ugly as beautiful, it can make or break a life. It has the power to deepen a tense societal divide, now, faster than ever.

Courtesy of empowermagazine.com

Courtesy of empowermagazine.com

Over the past few weeks I’ve watched the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. I’ve seen it rally Americans  to a cause that has needed attention for decades. I’ve seen it used to help Americans and the world process racism, and current events. I’ve been watching it be a rally point for the youth to learn and process ways of advocating for themselves and others. And I’ve seen it full of love and support and showing that there is a part of America with a willingness to learn and change.

I’ve also seen #BlackLivesMatter further divide the nation. Its been allowing the nation to draw a clear line between people in areas where society can’t afford lines. It has been a rallying point for individuals who wish, not for answers, but for revenge. I’ve seen it used to alienate others, even though its intent was to create solidarity.

And now, a new hashtag has appeared. #PoliceLivesMatter. It was created this weekend in support, shortly after the murder of two New York City police officers, by an individual whose motive was revenge and who seemed to have been fueled in part by #BlackLivesMatter.

And just like #BlackLiveMatter, #PoliceLivesMatter has power and influence over and on society. It will rally, it will divide and it will take on a life on its own.

Every past, present and future hashtag has power in its own respect. And for me, the past few weeks and especially few days, has taught me that the power of this one symbol is immense. That this singular symbol can move the human race to unite, destroy, build, save, kill, rally and much more within minutes. It makes me think of the favorite phrase we hear during election time “every vote counts”. However in the case of the hashtag, it truly is true. That every time we use a hashtag we have the ability to significantly influence our world and society.

The hashtag is no longer just a fun word or phrase to use in a tweet or even Facebook post. We, as a society, have given it the power of influence and significance to sway our society and our humanity.

Courtesy of tapinfluence.com

Courtesy of tapinfluence.com

I know for myself, I am going to do my absolute best in creating and using hashtags much more purposefully. I honestly can’t justify my own usage of hashtags if I am not able to understand the scope, magnitude, influence and results that this new tool contains. 

Just some ponderings and lessons I’m learning as I journey and try to make meaning out of life and especially  as of late with recent events.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

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About bdproffer

I am currently the Assistant Manager for the University Activities Board at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, web 2.0, LGBT issues and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer for Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
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