Unless you've been living under a social media rock and make it a point to avoid news headlines, you've probably heard something about the hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped last months by the Islamic Extremist group Boko Haram.
Celebrities galore have been been spreading awareness of the heartbreaking situation by tweeting with the hashtag "Bring Back Our Girls" -- even Michelle Obama got in on the action, tweeting a picture of herself looking sad and holding a sign that read "#BringBackOurGirls," which of course was either incredibly inspirational or deeply insulting, depending on how you feel about the Obamas. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter was not amused, and Sunday night tweeted her own biting response in the form of a pouty selfie captioned, "#BringBackOurCountry."
My hashtag contribution to world affairs ... pic.twitter.com/Wkb8ozYZFC— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) May 12, 2014
It's the perfect example of what's wrong with the "hashtag activism" surge in the last few years. It's all fine and good to raise awareness about such atrocities, but unless actual action is taken, it's not like Boko Haram is going to be convinced to give back the girls they have promised to sell into slavery.
More from The Stir: Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls Seen Terrified but Alive in New Video (WATCH)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Will summed it up talking to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, saying hashtag activism is "an exercise in self-esteem." He continued, "I do not know how adults stand there facing a camera and say, bring back our girls. Are these barbarians in the wild of Nigeria are supposed to check their Twitter accounts and say, oh, Michelle Obama is very crossed with us, we better change our behavior ... power is the ability to achieve intended effects. And this is not intended to have any effect on the real world."
Christine Sisto over at National Review wrote, "This trend is the perfect blend of the social-media generation’s laziness and the need to belong to something ... If Michelle Obama had held up that sign and then scheduled a trip to Nigeria, or spoken to the families of the kidnapped students, or met with President Jonathan, urging him to take action, or donated some of her personal money to a Nigerian non-profit, her gesture might have been credible."
Ann Coulter has a knack for summing things up succinctly, and love her or hate her, she makes a valid argument that hashtag activism is pretty pointless if it exists solely to be a cultural meme of collective "I care about the children" kumbaya nonsense.
Michelle Obama is the First Lady of the United States, and therefore holds more power to affect change than the average bear. It's going to take more than a sad, sad selfie with a sign to #BringBackOurGirls.
Do you think hashtag activism is helpful in promoting actual change for a better world?
Image via FLOTUS/Twitter