Can I make a difference online?
You probably already spend a lot of your time online, whether it’s reading articles on the internet, scrolling through your friends’ timelines on social media or sending instant messages via WhatsApp. You also learn a lot of what’s going on in the world by being online, and you might even contribute to the latest trends by sharing your opinion or sharing posts you agree with.
But you might also be wondering if sharing your voice online makes a real difference or if these online conversations are just here for a moment and then forgotten - without any really change coming from them.
Well Choma, to figure out if a real difference can actually be made online, we simply have to look at some of the conversations that have trended online in recent times. These are trending conversations that really matter to people and get more and more people around the world talking.
Let’s look at some of the recent online trends that ended up having a huge impact:
The #MeToo hashtag that trended recently started when American actor Alyssa Milano tweeted:
“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘#metoo’ as a reply to this tweet.”
In just 20 minutes there were 10 000 replies, and as the week went on thousands of replies kept pouring in. The trend spread globally as women (and men) all over the world started to share their stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted. It made news headlines everywhere, with famous and non-famous people talking about incidents that had happened to them recently as well as many years ago.
The campaign was so impactful because it created unity between survivors of sexual harassment and assault, making it safe for them to finally come forward with the stories they kept a secret for so long. People felt connected, heard and less alone.
People coming forward online about their experiences with sexual harassment or assault has already resulted in perpetrators being fired, exposed by more victims and investigated by police. Speaking up about abuse is extremely difficult, but creating a safe space for it and knowing that so many people have gone through it makes it a bit easier and encourages more people to report it. This is why the #MeToo campaign was, and still is, very important.
This hashtag started to trend after the horrible death of a young woman named Karabo Mokoena. Her death sparked a national outcry and got people to talk about the issue of gender-based violence in South Africa. Just like with the #MeToo hashtag, the #MenAreTrash hashtag encouraged women to come forward with their stories of abuse. There was an outpouring of support for survivors of abuse as more and more people came forward. Even men got involved in the conversation, calling for change - including celebrities. The hashtag started a very important conversation and even got men to take to the streets to protest against violence against women. From this, the #NotInMyName hashtag was started, where men and women pledged not to be bystanders of violence. The #MenAreTrash hashtag was a real eye-opener for men and women around the prevalence of gender based violence in our country. It resulted in more people being educated about the different types of abuse, rape culture and how they contribute to the problem.
Now more and more people are speaking out against gender-based violence.
This hashtag was created when there seemed to be a rise in police brutality in the United States. People started sharing videos of police treating black people unfairly and using unnecessary violence. The videos that were shared online made people question the ongoing treatment of black people in America, and black people around the world. Racism is still a global issue Choma and black people continue to experience some of the worst forms of racism and violence. This hashtag made many more people aware of this issue and got people talking about it and inspired them to stand together to oppose racism. In the USA, those who support this campaign are working hard to try and change how black people are treated by police, and the justice system, by investing their time and money into helping victims.
From the #BlackLivesMatter movement came the #BlackGirlMagic campaign. Many people, especially many young black women, were tired of the way the media represented black people. #BlackGirlMagic highlighted the achievements of powerful black women in the world to encourage more black women to be ambitious and work towards their dreams. #BlackGirlMagic also inspired more and more black women to simply love themselves and the skin they were born in, inspiring a revolution of self-love around the world.
Although it didn’t necessarily start off as an online campaign, the #FeesMustFall campaign (which started with student protests in 2017) started a huge conversation online. The campaign was started because many students around South Africa were at a disadvantage when it came to higher education - because university fees are so expensive. Students called for higher education to be free so that more young people in South Africa can have access to it. The campaign grew so much that even students in London and in New York protested in solidarity with South African students. It became a huge campaign online and continues to be a huge campaign today as students continue to fight for free education.
The internet is an extremely powerful tool to educate yourself, express yourself and be part of a larger conversation that calls for critical change. So yes Choma, you absolutely can use the power of the internet to make a real difference.
Choma will soon be launching a section on the Choma website called ‘Make a Noise’. Make a noise is all about creating change by making our voices heard. Do you want to make a difference online? Let me know in the comments below.
Remember, you can send me a message to talk to me about anything. So if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).
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