The rally cry of the 21st century has become “awareness”. We wear rubber bracelets. We engage in online challenges. We participate in national theme days – wear red for heart association, no bra days for breast cancer (BTW, who made that up? I personally should not be going anywhere in public with a bra…someone with a smaller bust line made that one up).
I wonder if we have replaced action with awareness. We will spend $50 on a red shirt for Go Red Day. But what does that do to actually help the cause of your choice? Wouldn’t you (and those that the charity benefits) be better off just giving that money directly to the organization? I know there are times you can buy merchandise and a cut goes to a charity. But if you are spending $20 and only 10% is going to your cause, then who are you really helping? Do you really need pink rubber bracelets?
Then there is the social media activism. Now we bring awareness through viral video stunts and hashtags -some of these actually end up being incredibly effective. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of a campaign that was well executed.
- How many people do you think prior to this challenge had heard of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)?
- In addition, it took advantage of society’s need to be seen and acknowledged. We were able to do something fun and involve our friends by challenging them to participate and, of course, try to make our video so great that we could get our 15 minutes of internet fame.
- But the part that was most impressive to me, was the way that money was part of the challenge. The amount of your donation was dependent on if you carried out the ice bucket part. This one campaign raised over $100 million!!! Very few charities or non-profit organizations see that kind of money in a year. Even fewer don’t have to spend hours and hours of blood, sweat, and tears into asking and pleading for that money.
Not all are as successful. Not all are leveraged the best way possible. It’s easy to add a hashtag to your tweet, post, etc., but what are you ultimately trying to accomplish? Awareness is always the answer. Well. what is your definition of awareness?
In order to make real change, your message needs to extend beyond the cyber world and begin to become a part of everyone’s every day lives. While I’m sure it is not impossible, it is difficult to make a long lasting impression using a hashtag. How can you control the message behind your #?
I found a list of “hashtags that changed the world” from 2014. What I ask is how many of these do you: (a) remember (b) do you remember the story behind why it started (c) do you feel the hashtag resulted in more than “awareness”?
I picked 6 of them. Several I will honestly say I remember, a few I never heard of. Looking at all of them, I’m not sure anyone could call it effective. I don’t see any of the issues that #yesallwomen or #blacklivesmatter address being resolved almost a year later. I remember #bringbackourgirls. Powerful figureheads and celebrities from around the world joined in. It was the plea that no one could deny is a good cause – bringing 200 girls who randomly disappeared back home to their families. Over a year later, what news has come from this? Do you hear anything about it? Did you follow it after you sent your tweet out into the Twitterverse? My guess is probably not. According to this article from CNN, over a year later, not only have the girls not been found but there has been nothing from the Nigerian government to show that anything has happened in the investigation.
I’m not anti-activism. I’m not anti-social media. I just think we need to move past building awareness and move towards getting shit done. Get involved in the causes that you feel strongly about. Volunteer if you can. If you aren’t sure where to start – Huffington Post has this article that offers 13 websites that will match you with an organization. You can give money. Many people are nervous about giving money to an organization without knowing where their money will go. (As someone that works in non-profits, I can tell you for profit, not for profit, administrative costs must be paid. Non-profits do try very hard (if run correctly) to be good stewards of the funds they are given so you’ll never eliminate that all together). But you can use websites like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch (and many others) that rate non-profits for what they do with their money. Depending on the organization’s tax status, their official tax forms might be public record so you can look and judge for yourself.
#s are great, but nothing is an equal substitute for blood, sweat, tears and cash to help with funding. What do you think? Do you think that the hashtags are powerful or fluff?