THE SANTA CLARA
January 22, 2014
Last April, armed militants devastated the small town of Chibok as they stormed a boarding school in the northeastern region of Nigeria and abducted 276 teenage girls.
The world did not turn a blind eye to this tragedy. Several grassroots campaigns sprung up in the following weeks, with millions calling for their political leaders to “bring back our girls.”
People held protests, petitioned online and supported key political figures as they voiced their approval for the campaign. Malala Yousafzai, a young girl who was shot by Pakistani Taliban when she was 15 because of her courageous call for educational opportunities for women, got behind the movement. As did Michelle Obama, someone who one would assume had the ear of the President.
Most notable, however, was the enormous outpouring of support for the missing girls that took place on social media. With over a million retweets, the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls” blew up on Twitter. The Facebook page of the same name, which posts about the number of days that have passed since the girls’ abduction (283 as of today), still has over 230,000 followers.
Yet for many, the effort to #BringBackOurGirls went no further than a quick retweet or like on Facebook. People moved on.
A brief glance at Twitter this week hinted at where our society’s true passions lie. The upcoming Whitney Houston movie was most trending, as was “Beliebers Day,” which after 30 seconds this writer will never get back, was discovered to actually be in mid-June.
Far less discussed was Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 80 people in Northern Cameroon on Sunday. There was practically no mention of the fact that over 200 of the abducted young women are still missing.
Few saw the satellite images released by Amnesty International, which showed the utter ravaging of the towns of Baga and Doron Baga in northeast Nigeria by Boko Haram militants during the first week of January.
Over 3,700 homes were destroyed, thousands have been reported killed and the destruction is so severe that, as Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher Daniel Eyre noted, “Residents have not been able to return to bury the dead, let alone count their number.”
Instead, let’s all laugh at the retweets to the hashtag “#FiveWordsToRuinAJobInterview,” which dominated Twitter for most of the weekend.
Such a dismissal of a crisis is reminiscent of the public reaction to Invisible Children’s movie “Kony 2012,” which sought to shed light on the crimes of African warlord, Joseph Kony.
The film sparked widespread outrage, was viewed over 100 million times and filled Facebook walls for weeks. Support for the moment dropped off significantly when the mental stability of Jason Russell, the film’s director, came into question. The follow up film, “Kony 2012: Part II – Beyond Famous,” was dramatically less successful.
Russell’s breakdown and the loss of support for his movement that followed highlighted the problem faced by many of today’s social media driven campaigns.
It happened again two years later with “#BringBackOurGirls.” After the earthquake in Haiti. With the Ice Bucket Challenge. During the Ebola crisis. Even with the Occupy Movement.
Society eagerly moves on to the next crisis before the first one is bettered. This tragedy ADD has plagued modern movements as they have lost needed funding and interest while their targets remain relatively unfazed.
It’s safe to say that Joseph Kony and Boko Haram care about whether or not you retweeted about them just as much as they care how quickly you can binge watch the newest season of “House of Cards.”
We need to go beyond hashtag activism. Both effortless and mindless, it ultimately does little to actually affect our world.
If only there were a way for people to voice their opinions and influence the actions of leaders in a democratic society. Perhaps then steps could be taken to influence the actions of the oil-rich Nigeria, a country that had to import $6.5 billion worth of primarily agricultural goods from the U.S. in 2013, up 28.8 percent from 2012.
Maybe then something would be done about the absurdly corrupt nation that saw its leader dancing the night away at a wedding instead of making any comments about the horrific massacre that took place in two towns in his own nation.
Or you could “#DescribeYourSexLifeWithABand,” which was most trending on Twitter yesterday.
Thomas Curran-Levett is a junior political science major and the Opinion Editor for The Santa Clara.