In 2010, protests and civil war broke out across the Middle East, and social media played a huge role in raising global awareness of what was dubbed the Arab Spring. But that was just the beginning of social being used as a vehicle for activism.
While some have derided hashtag activism as ineffective, there is no denying the impact of social media in raising awareness of social issues this year. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest social issues on social media during 2015.
As 2014 closed, stories and unrest regarding police brutality in Ferguson and other parts of the country led to big outcry on social media. These events weren’t the origin of the #BlackLivesMatter movement; however, throughout 2015, the deaths of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and more recently Laquan McDonald helped give the movement more momentum. #BlackLivesMatter was Tweeted 9 million times this year, and the hashtag that started on social media, has become a social calling card for social justice and racial equality activists across the U.S.
#ParisAttacks, #PrayForParis & #JeSuisCharlie
Paris was the epicenter for two major terrorist attacks this year. The first was the attack on the publication Charlie Hebdo in January. In the days following the attack, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie spread across social media and at the time, was named one of the most popular hashtags in Twitter history, with more than 5 million uses.
The second incident, a coordinated attack by gunmen and suicide bombers, took place in November and reignited global solidarity with the beloved French capital. Once again, social media users expressed their support, this time with the hashtags #PrayForParis, which was used more than 7 million times, and #PrayForParis was used more than 400,000 times, according to Amobee data. On Facebook, News Feeds were awash with profile pictures featuring the French flag or the Eiffel Tower peace symbol drawing.
14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed became a symbol for the issue of American islamophobia when he was arrested for taking a homemade clock to school. Following his arrest, social media rallied using the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed as a show of support, which was used more than 300,000 times on Twitter, including one from President Obama. Mohamed was also invited to visit Facebook, and offered a scholarship to MIT and an internship at Twitter.
Worldwide Refugee Crisis
This summer, the impact of the wars in the Middle East spilled over to the rest of the world, resulting in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. As demonstrated time and time again during crisis and natural disaster, smartphones and social media became primary means of communication and connection for refugees. When pictures of drowned Syrian children began to surface on social media, human rights activists and European citizens began demanding their governments open the gates, making #RefugeesWelcome one of the top moments on Twitter in 2015.
Twitter noted in a September blog post that in the two days after #RefugeesWelcome launched, the hashtag was used more than 180,000 times.
Image courtesy of SZERVÁC Attila.
This year brought huge victories for the marriage equality movement, with both Ireland and the U.S. legalizing same sex marriage. Following the SCOTUS decision recognizing same sex marriages nationwide, people took to social media to celebrate and more than 26 million Facebook users took advantage of the rainbow filters for their profile pictures. On Twitter, users were offered users #Pride rainbow flag and #LoveWins rainbow heart emojis; #LoveWins was used 284,730 times within the first hour after the decision.
Readers: Which social activism campaign was the most powerful of 2015?