Diffusing the myth: “I #hashtag, therefore I care”


Image Source:  Michael Fleshman: Flickr Creative Commons. https://www.flickr.com/photos/fleshmanpix/13929236009

 April of 2014. 200 Nigerian schoolgirls  are tragically kidnapped by Boko Haram . The #BringBackOurGirls campaign is born. An image of a sober faced Michelle Obama holding up a  “#BringBackOurGirls” placard becomes iconic.  Washington Times  describes  Obama’s picture as the catalyst for transforming a trending hashtag into a “social-media supernova.”

The virality of the  #BringBackOurGirls picture appeared a PR success.

Yet for many, the Obama’s hashtag left a sour taste.

Why? USA’s First Lady was beseeching for someone to #BringBackOurGirls. Who had the capability to #BringBackOurGirls? The video below states that would be the USA. With Obama reiterating her concern for the kidnapped girls online, she gave off the impression that a hashtag could solve a crisis. Well, Boko Haram did find that amusing.

Some would call the #BringBackOurGirls campaign representative of a dangerous new PR phenomena of “hashtag activism,” AKA “slacktivism.” The definition?

“Hashtag activism draws on the logic that outrage or heightened audience reaction caused by iconic images can sway public opinion and eventually effect change…” 

(Lina Srivastava)

Perhaps social media has caused a new-age “illusion” to manifest for PR practitioners. An illusion that numbers of online mentions alone can determine campaign success .

A year later the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has been viewed  futile.

The girls have never returned.


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