Social media has changed a lot since we used to sit in front of our desktop computers updating our MySpace profiles in the third person. Smart phones have given us constant access to multiple platforms. Front-facing cameras, Snapchat filters, and PopSockets have upped our selfie game significantly. But more than anything, the way we use social media has shifted.
Sure, we still post funny GIFs and cute kitten videos and let our lattes get cold while we document them fleetingly on our Instagram stories, but social media also provides a global forum for social and political change. With the recent rise of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, the impact of hashtags is more clear than ever.
The revolution may not be televised, but you’re probably following it on your Twitter feed.
Just add action
Of course, a lot of people argue that sharing something on social media doesn’t actually DO anything. Ironically, they usually post this argument on Facebook…because how else would they get the word out? While there are some very direct ways that social media can have an impact (such as fundraisers), it’s true that no one is probably going to change the world without stepping out from behind their keyboard. But what social media CAN do is create connection, which creates momentum, and when that momentum is combined with action…well, that’s when things start to happen.
If you’re still skeptical about the power of social media, think about this: the Me Too movement was founded by Tarana Burke in 2006 as a resource for survivors of sexual violence. However, most people had never heard of it until actress Alyssa Milano (coincidentally) included those two words in a call-to-action tweet in October 2017. Less than a year later, what began as a six-character tremor has evolved into a full-fledged seismic event of painful but necessary truth telling.
While this particular event was set into action by someone famous, the phenomenon of “going viral” has made the kind of reach once reserved for celebrities and mainstream media available to anyone with compelling content and wifi access. And while Milano’s tweet may have been a spark, the participation of millions of “regular” people helped turn it into a blazing fire.
The Time’s Up movement overlaps Me Too in that it confronts the issue of sexual harassment, but its focus is on workplace gender discrimination in every form. While Time’s Up was established by high-profile women who felt compelled to use their voices, the initiative is designed to improve conditions in ALL industries, from red carpet to blue collar.
Currently, the gender wage gap is about 20% on average, meaning that women make about 80% of what their male peers are paid. That’s not a great statistic, but the even scarier one is that the gap is narrowing more slowly than ever. If we continue at the pace we’ve seen over recent years, it won’t close until 2119. Do we want to wait 100 more years just to be paid what we’re worth? Absolutely not. #TimesUp is more than a hashtag…it’s a message, loud and clear.
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