#HappyBirthdayTwitter: 10 hashtags that reflected zeitgeist
The hashtag that helped spark massive protests against income inequality and corporate greed in the Big Apple in 2011, was actually created by a Canadian activist group. The campaign grew into a nationwide movement in a matter of days, and spread globally within the next few months.
Dear Americans, this July 4th dream of insurrection against corporate rule http://bit.ly/kejAUy #occupywallstreet— Adbusters (@Adbusters) July 4, 2011
It’s thanks, in large part, to an initially uncoordinated campaign launched by local Nigerian activists, that the abduction of 276 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram extremists didn’t go unnoticed by the global community. The campaign began in 2014 with a tweet by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi, who was the first person to use the viral #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.
The challenge did not start on Twitter, but once the relevant hashtag appeared, it gained instant momentum, making the spine-tingling and teeth-chattering challenge the main frolic of the year. The viral phenomenon promoted awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease and encouraged donations to research.
The hashtag was used by Hongkongers who took to the streets to protest their government’s electoral reform. As Hong Kong is hyper-connected, with some 17 million unique mobile phone subscribers, the organizers and activists used Twitter and the hashtag for 79 days to call on supporters to join them in a sit-in revolt. The entire movement is now known as the Umbrella Revolution or Umbrella Movement. The name refers to the shield Hong-Kongers used to fend off police pepper spray.
These two hashtags became synonymous for defiance of terrorism and solidarity with the victims of the terror attacks that shook Paris in 2015. Initially, 12 people lost their lives in a terror attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, with thousands of people taking to social media to express their grief with the words “I am Charlie,” which were designed by Parisian artist Joachim Roncin. Just several months later, a new hashtag had to be created after 130 people were killed in several attacks by Islamic State terrorists, and #PrayForParis quickly emerged as a top global trend.
This one topped Twitter after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. The ruling was met with both jubilation and outrage, but the hashtag quickly became a global symbol of the fight for the rights of the LGBT community. Who do you think was among the first to use the hashtag? None other than the US President himself.
Today is a big step in our march toward equality. Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else. #LoveWins— President Obama (@POTUS) June 26, 2015
This hashtag’s namesake emerged as one of the most powerful social campaigns in 2015. Created after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of 17-year-old black teen Trayvon Martin, a young woman in California wrote an emotional Facebook post that ended with the words “Our Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter.” Her friend, Patrisse Cullors, turned that into a hashtag and started a nationwide movement to fight racial inequality.
This hashtag became a top trender for those seeking asylum in Europe. Among those to popularize it, was retired British footballer Stan Collymore, who posted it along with a compilation of photos of German football fans holding up banners reading “Refugees welcome.” The hashtag spread, with people around the world using it to call on European countries to grant the refugees entrance.
Andy Worthington, a British journalist and activist, created this hashtag to call on anyone not indifferent to support Shaker Aamer, a British citizen who had been held without trial at the dreaded Guantanamo Bay Prison for over 13 years. Whether it was due to the hashtag, or all of the celebrities and politicians that supported the cause, the last British prisoner of Guantanamo is now a free man.
The hashtag launched to celebrate Twitter’s big day is here and trending like crazy. So head to the platform to join in the global birthday celebrations - and don’t forget to use the hashtag!