Hashtivism – Using Hashtags for Activism

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#MizzouHungerStrike. #ConcernedStudent1950. #BlackLivesMatter. #ShoutYourAbortion.

I’m sure you’ve all heard or seen one of these hashtags, whether it was in August during the Ferguson unrest, or it was yesterday referring to the hunger strike that went on at the University of Missouri campus. Many people think that in order to be considered an “activist,” you have to participate in strikes, sit-ins, or marches, but did you know that hashtags are now imperative to the success of activism campaigns?

Last week, Jonathan Butler announced that he was going on a hunger strike, stating, “Justice is worth fighting for,” and that he would not eat another meal until the president of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, was removed from office. Tim Wolfe has been under major fire the past few months for refusing to respond to the racial tensions that have been happening on the Mizzou campus. After Butler announced his strike, the university and the entire U.S. exploded with support. #MizzouHungerStrike began trending on Twitter, and people from all over were showing support for Butler’s cause. Not long after, a group from the University of Missouri known as #ConcernedStudent1950 showed their support via social media. This past week, thousands of people have joined the cause to stop racial tensions on the Mizzou campus. But the final straw for Wolfe was when the Mizzou football team joined the cause and refused to play until he was removed from office. Monday morning, Tim Wolfe resigned from office at the University of Missouri. One student, one football team, and thousands of voices via social media were able to remove a man who wasn’t doing his job from office. The virtual voice of today’s generation was heard loud and clear in Columbia, Missouri, and that sent Wolfe packing.

The strike at the University of Missouri was only one example of hashtags creating a change online. #BlackLivesMatter has brought on thousands of people to the cause. #ShoutYourAbortion has encouraged women to not be ashamed of their choices to have an abortion. So, not only have hashtags been able to help a movement get the momentum it really needs to be heard, but they’re able to bring awareness to issues otherwise ignored.

Hashtag activism, dubbed “hashtivism” by its supporters, has received a lot of critical reviews since it began. People say it’s a cop-out due to people not wanting to show their support in real life. However, do those saying it’s a cop-out not see that the ones using hashtags to support their cause (millennials) are not only showing their friends what they support by posting it online, but they’re showing the entire world what they believe? Using such a popular activist hashtag such as #BlackLivesMatter automatically marks you as a supporter of the cause not only to your “real-life” friends but to the people you’re connected with on social media. So, those who say it’s a cop-out obviously have no idea what kind of power social media holds.

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#BlackLivesMatter, despite some of the hatred it has received, has proven to be one of the most powerful campaigns this nation has ever seen. It’s encouraged people to stand up for their rights, freedoms, and to not allow people of any race or ethnicity to treat them any different based on the color of their skin. People should be able to proudly say “I am white,” “I am black,” “I am Hispanic,” or however they identify themselves, and not be afraid of backlash from people with different colors of skin.

The same goes for the strike that happened at Mizzou. It’s shown students from universities all over the United States that they can make a difference at their school. It has shown students, especially those at Mizzou, that they are all entitled to the best education that they can receive despite their race. These hashtags empower people to finally make a difference in a world where a change is needed.

#MizzouHungerStrike, #ConcernedStudent1950, and #BlackLivesMatter are only a few of the activist hashtags that I’ve followed very closely. However, I do believe that they are the best examples one can have of what an activism  campaign should look like. Yes, the movement that happened at Mizzou did have a lot of supporters on site, and yes, the #BlackLivesMatter campaign includes a lot of people doing marches, sit-ins, and strikes. BUT, the amount of people supporting the cause online because they are unable to attend these “real-life” movements are invaluable to the movement of these causes. These online voices were, and will continue to be, a huge force in these activism campaigns and any future campaigns to come.

Don’t be afraid to show support for a campaign that you whole-heartedly support, but be aware that with a campaign as popular as #BlackLivesMatter, or #ShoutYourAbortion, you will receive some backlash from those who whole-heartedly are against it. However, if you renounce your belief due to that backlash, you may receive more adverse reactions than before. Hashtivism is a great way to support a cause for something that isn’t happening near you such as the events in Ferguson, Columbia, or many other places around the world. You can rise up and share your opinion and feelings on activism campaigns from thousands of miles away. And THAT is why hashtag activism is key to the success of activism movements.

Hashtivism is here to stay and it’s something that I foresee changing the way that modern-day activists get their message out to every demographic. The future of activism is here, and this is only the beginning.

By: Harley Crawshaw | @harley_crawshaw

About Tom Harness

Tom Harness is the owner of Harness Digital Marketing, a digital marketing firm that works with businesses and organizations on Social Media, SEO, and Email Marketing. He is an entrepreneur and business owner with 20 years of combined experience in Education, IT, and Business. Tom is a U.S. Army Veteran and a Southern Illinois University alum. He also enjoys craft beers, his beloved Chicago Cubs, and his family.


  1. Hashtivism is a joke. It should be called flashmobism. It would be safe to say that those hashtivists (or millenials as you put it) failed to investigate facts or find the true story behind their “causes”. The facts remain that #BlackLivesMatter ruined a police officer’s life; the Mizzou debacle forced a man to lose his job because kids used a hashtag instead of looking for evidence of wrong doing. None of those kids are forced to go to school there. They are free to take their money elsewhere if they don’t like it! With the hastivists being such techies, where are the pictures and videos backing up their allegations? Millenials and their hastivism is not a protest but a childish attempt for attention and power.

    Shout out your abortion? Come on HDM…your examples of hastivism turn my stomach.

    • Tim,

      I knew when I wrote this blog, that I would be writing something that some would love, and some would hate. While I appreciate you reading my blog and sharing your opinion, I would have to disagree with you on a few key points of my blog. Hashtivism is my generation’s, millennials, way of showing support for a cause that we might not otherwise be able to show support for if we weren’t there. As for your comments regarding the examples of hashtivism I used, I do understand that all of these specific hashtags are extremely controversial and everyone has very differing opinions when regarding them. Thank you again, however, for taking the time to read my blog.

      • Haley, that’s exactly my point. Activism from your couch doesn’t exist. Not only is it lazy, but it’s dangerous because flashmobists won’t do the necessary investigative work to deem a “cause” necessary and/or worthy. In addition the attrition from “your generation” is harmful, unnecessary, and wrong.

    • Tim,

      Great response and I too appreciate you taking the time to read Harley’s blog. Each one of my team (myself included) is required to write a blog every week. We rotate through each other and we have a lot of discussions about the topics and the content. I wish people could see the interaction and discussion we have behind the scenes before they go out. You would enjoy them.

      The team knows that they need to address or connect with one of the services we provide (Social Media, Email Marketing, SEO, or Sales). They also know that they have to “clearly” distinguish and show the positives and negatives for some of the topics they bring up. I would much rather discuss the hard topics, than ignore them or be biased.

      As a business owner, I have very few “hot topics” that I will openly speak about (especially in Southern Illinois) in fear that business owners will NOT do business with me. I also have some topics that are a part of my business model and philosophy. Some of those being, Pro Veteran, Freedom of Speech, and being a Cubs fan. Yes, being a cubs fan has cost me business.

      My business and myself have to stand for something. That’s one reason why I served my country.

      I think the quote Harley has in her blog really helped me to see where she was coming from:

      “Don’t be afraid to show support for a campaign that you whole-heartadly support, but be aware that with a campaign as popular as #BlackLivesMatter, or #ShoutYourAbortion, you will receive some backlash from those who whole-heartadly are against it.”

      I do appreciate you taking the time to talk to an 17 year old Herrin High School student that has an amazing background and an amazing future ahead of her. I love giving our youth opportunities and unfortunately they don’t all get them.

      Have a great day!

  2. An incredibly challenging and tough article to write about, Harley. I’ve always appreciated your outlook on the world and your openness to discuss your blogs with an old man (smile). It’s fitting that you post an article that deals with freedom on a day that so many people lost their lives to give you the opportunity to write about Hashtivism.

    Every generation has to deal with how they express themselves to an older generation. I may not agree or see your views, but I always appreciate our discussions, your passion, and your honesty.

    The overall point for me on this blog is that Hashtivism is this generations version of burning draft cards or writing protest songs. When attention is drawn towards a hashtag, understand the power and responsibility that comes with it.

    As a business owner and Veteran I want to bring dialogue out and not keep hatred in. Sometimes we have to have hard discussions, but I believe in people and I believe that we have to work with the future generations. After all, they are young, and young people make mistakes.


  3. Alexandra Desrosiers says

    Great article! Hashtivism is really resourceful for those who may not feel comfortable being on the forefront of marches or die-ins. I am very proud of you taking such a stance in a town like Herrin. You will probably get a lot of backlash from non POC, but that’s okay because as a POC I appreciate this. This is actually the least problematic article I’ve read, so the fact that it’s causing any sort of debate is surprising. Nonetheless, keep up the good work and stay woke on social issues. Power to the people ✊

    • Thanks so much, Alexandra! I appreciate the comment and it’s people like you (and your sister) who have encouraged me to stay updated with social issues. Thank you for all that you do and thank you for supporting my article. 🙂

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