Hashtag is the New Red Ribbon

Hashtag is the New Red Ribbon

Twitter is a unique form of modern social communication, in that the “average” person can communicate directly with celebrities and people in power without going through any kind of filter, and the celebrity can also “speak” without a filter to the public.  This often causes problems for celebrities and news people, who tweet stupid things constantly and get called out for it.

However, it has also led to the Hashtag Phenomenon.  Because of the way Twitter works, hashtags are the way people keep track of what subjects are trending.  We’ve seen the pathetic attempts recently of the State Department to try and conduct diplomacy by hashtag, and how current events are reduced down to hashtags.  Recently, the hashtag #YesAllWomen took off after the Isla Vista killings, where people began tweeting about the killer’s manifesto and misogyny.

Hashtags make people feel good.  Tweeting a comment with a hashtag makes them feel involved in a cause or an issue bigger than themselves.  Not that a hashtag actually accomplishes anything.  It’s just a statement of “See?  Look how socially enlightened I am!”

In fact, it reminds me a lot of this:

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor at the 1992 Academy Awards. Notice what they are wearing?

Hashtags are the new AIDS red ribbon of the 21st century.  I remember the red ribbon phenomenon.  For several years, every single celebrity event was littered with red ribbons on everyone’s lapels.  Wearing a red ribbon made a statement.  It proclaimed how socially aware the person was who was wearing it.  Did it really matter that wearing a ribbon didn’t do anything?  Nope – because it made everyone FEEL good.  And it showed how much the person CARED about the AIDS epidemic.

But then the ribbon craze expanded.  There was pink for breast cancer.  Then it was blue for prostate cancer, which then got changed to autism.  There were yellow ribbons during the Persian Gulf War, and then, after September 11th, 2001, there were the red, white, and blue ribbons.  If you watched any of the Hollywood award ceremonies this year, there wasn’t a single red ribbon in sight.  AIDS still exists, but the celebrities have moved on.

It’s the same with hashtags.  They are merely a way for people to proclaim their social awareness by tweeting something supposedly supportive, and then attaching it to the hashtag of the moment.  And then people move on.  It costs a person nothing to spend two minutes writing and sending out a tweet, but it proclaims their feelings.  Everyone virtually high-fives each other, and then they move on to the next thing.  Conservatives have been successful in hijacking political figures’ pet hashtags, which is always funny, because liberals react like the hashtag actually was making a difference.  Hey, you disrupted our happy circle high-five!!!  No fair!!!

Perhaps if the State Department was less concerned about finding the right hashtag and more on the protection of American citizens and the human rights abuses they claim to care about, there would be a Marine back home and out of a Mexican jail, and the wife of a naturalized American citizen would not be giving birth in prison and waiting for her own execution.  Maybe, if people really cared about gun violence, they would spend time looking at their own families and their own communities, and not letting them produce damaged and broken people.

But that would actually take work.  And I’ve never seen #Work trend on Twitter.

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1 Comment
  • Chris in N.Va. says:

    Two notes:

    1. Speaking of our “selfie” administration (What’s it all about, Selfie? Hmm, there’s a song in there somewhere…), ever since Barry-O and company ascended the throne (of power, not the porcelain one), I’ve referred to him as Ozymandias-on-the-Potomac which, which is a nod to Shelley’s classic poem about a days-of-yore, pre-cellphone-camera “selfie” statue. How apropos!

    2. This whole pouty-yet-yet-stern-faced hashtag response thing is quite boomer-appropriate as well. Compare this egocentric response to a song by Tom Lehrer, “Folk Song Army,” in which he notes that the circa 1960’s protest songs were never intended to actually DO something, rather to just make the singers feel GOOD about singing them. Do a quick online search and enjoy the song and how it parallels the typical Lib/Prog/Dem worldview showcased by this mis-administration of perpetual (and petulant) adolescents.

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