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Hashtag Activism: What's the Point?
By: Jennifer Graber
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The Internet is an interesting place where you are never quite sure what you will see. And when new videos, with the same theme, begin popping up all over, you might not even be surprised — just left wondering why. Lately you probably have seen videos of people dumping buckets of ice water all over themselves. In fact, I saw one today where someone dumped water, with only one ice cube, on a dog wearing a raincoat. But what is the point of being doused in ice water? Apparently, there is a good reason. These viral videos are all a part of what is being called the "ice bucket challenge." The challenge was created to raise money and awareness for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Those who participate in the challenge must either dump ice water on themselves or donate money to the ALS Association. But maybe you did not realize that, because I sure did not. Many of the ice bucket challenge videos going around do not mention the do-it-or-pay-up scenario. Most of the participants just seem to challenge others, and it almost misses the point. Or does it?
The goal of this hashtag activism was to raise money and awareness for ALS. And to some extent, it has done both. According to the ALS Association, it has received $4 million in donations since the start of the ice bucket challenge in late July. But the problem is that it has taken time for people to establish the connection between the ice bucket challenge and ALS. And, after all, is the connection not the most important thing? If you do not know that much, then you might think it is another crazy online stunt, like the cinnamon challenge.
When people see something viral go down, they want to be a part of it. They want to live forever in digital infamy. Admittedly, it is tempting. We want to be a part of the next big thing. But hashtag activism can sometimes be more about being a part of something than actually doing something. This is in no way meant to detract from those who follow up their words with actions. My hat goes off to you. The world needs more people like you.
However, if that vital connection is not established early on, then crucial time is lost. People should know exactly why they are doing something online. Otherwise, what is the point? If the campaign does not have that connection, then it will not feel personal or be emotionally stirring. Thus, those online campaigns without connections will not cause you to move beyond your computer screen.
Therefore, if you are going to participate in hashtag activism, do it for the right reasons and follow it up with actions. And never follow blindly; know why you are doing something and be sure to tell others why as well.

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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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