Hashtag activism is becoming the defining characteristic of this era. One could fill pages with all the hashtag movements that have been created in the last few years, and that’s the macabre point: if you were to make such a list, and then check off which lasted more than a few months, you’d find that most remained unchecked. How can such a short-lived activity claim (in one way or another) to be a sign of enlightenment, humanity, or progress, though?
The majority of hashtag movements have learned that they need to make the biggest splash possible before the capricious culture and media move onto something else. Essentially, slow burn activism is falling to the wayside, as the modern activist has found fasting or refusing to sleep either intolerable or ineffective. As it stands, the attention a hashtag movement receives generally isn’t as much a product of their arguments or physical endurance, but how dramatically they are presented in densely populated areas, within universities, or on social media platforms. This has produced such a strong tribal mentality within the members of many of these movements that their public demonstrations often escalate into a mob mentality, pulling the entire locale to an unneccessary standstill.
This big-splash activism has been effective in the sense that it has allowed participants to receive much attention, but don’t be fooled into thinking their tactics are anything other than typical modern marketing tactics. Activists seem not to have any problem with this though, because any attention to their cause is viewed as good attention, but again, this ends-justifies-the-means modus is derived from modern marketing tactics.
The effects of blending modern marketing tactics with progressive social idealism may not be as benign as people think. Take, for example, the general marketing strategy of the toy industry: knowing that not all toys will be as popular as Legos, toy companies aggressively market for a short time, closely observing which toys make it and which don’t. And if they don’t, the toys are either dropped or sit on shelves, meaning, the companies transfer their marketing energies toward finding the next potential Lego, leaving a trail of toy carcasses in their wake. In a nutshell, the old products are marginalized or disposed of simply to make room for the new, flashy products.
Transferring the marketing practices of tangible consumer products into the realm of intangible products—in this case, activism—is not a good idea because it treats activism like a commodity even though they’re completely different categories. This is why hashtag activism’s compass is askew; it’s more of a progressive marketing firm than the anointed think tank it claims to be.
Since hashtag activism is gradually becoming the popular culture’s version of enlightenment, those deeply involved in the movements are convinced they’re involved in morally righteous causes, viewing the transitory feature as a justification to disrupt or impose upon other people, smugly expecting their otherwise reprobate behavior to be excused due to the allegedly anointed nature of their causes.
This justification seems to be a distinctive feature of modern activism--Activism Du Jour—and has unfortunately and ironically proven to be its most enduring feature. That doesn’t seem very enlightened.
Hashtag activism’s perspective of social progress and enlightenment can therefore be boiled down to these tenets: 1) Forget ‘The Tortoise and the Hare.’ 2) Aggressively advocate something that can capture people’s attention for a short amount of time, and then move on to the next cause. 3) If you get lucky and stumble upon a Lego, by dear God attach yourself to it for as long as you can, because you may never come across another one.