Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hashtag Slacktivism

I've been following the unfolding story of the kidnapped Nigerian school girls with the kind of preoccupied horror that only a mother of a teen-aged daughter could muster. I cried when the girls' families grabbed crude bows and arrows and sped off into the forest on motorbikes and bare feet in a hopeless attempt to rescue their children.  When their kidnappers, members of the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, issued their public threats to sell the girls into slavery, I cried again.  And now, more than three weeks after the abduction, as the trail is growing cold, and the religious fervor which drives this extremist group to sell young girls as sex slaves and refuse negotiation "with infidels" comes to light, along with the ineffectiveness of the Nigerian government in maintaining the security of it's civilians, all I feel is utterly helpless.  All I can do is hug my daughters tight and cry more tears, tears of gratitude that my children sleep safely in their beds and with tears for the mothers of those missing Nigerian girls, who must feel so much more scared and helpless.

There's very little I can do but pray for those girls' safe return to their families.

Or I could jump on the hashtag activism freight train with Michelle Obama.


Wednesday afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama, took time out of her super busy schedule to post this selfie. (I suppose it's not REALLY a selfie.  Leave it to the FLOTUS to hire a professional photographer to capture all of her important PR pictures to help keep her looking professional, yet thoroughly hip.)  I suppose she must be trying to look concerned, although to me it comes across as a bit more pouty.

Of course, First Lady Obama isn't the first one to join the celebrity masses to "raise awareness" in a revolutionary form of "slacktivism" (a form of activism rich in psychic rewards and social laurels that doesn't require an individual to actually DO anything of real substance or value).

Behold the many forms of celebrity slacktivism:

Alicia Keys

Amy Poehler

Norah Jones?

These guys are in on it, too.

I almost didn't want to include this one, because...who can criticize Malala?  Especially on this topic?  But she HAS attained celebrity status, so here ya go!
While these posted photos do show a display of solidarity, they do nothing for those poor Nigerian school girls.  Nothing.  But they do garner some social kudos for the posing celebrities.

I mean, look how moral and caring these individuals are.

While that last comment may ring with sarcasm, I'm not suggesting that these wonderful celebrities aren't caring souls.  Perhaps they've cried their own tears and hugged their own daughters.  Just don't mistake their hashtag selfies for any real action.

Which brings me back to the First Lady and her pouting lips of concern.  She could have done more than hire that probably overpaid publicity photographer and the make-up artist and hairstylist that undoubtedly contributed to that public relations hashtag stunt.  Because it IS a public relations stunt to be sure.  When the powerful and influential tweet their support, it's great publicity and polishes their public image, but those posed professional "selfies" and 140 character messages don't give the public enough information to enact any real change.  If she wanted to make a REAL difference in the lives of those stolen young girls, she should stop wasting time, drop the sign, and talk to her husband.

Because the hashtags won't return those girls safely to the arms of their mothers.

But real action might.


Flame said...

My understanding is that our government has sent a group to help their government find those girls. Those celebrities cannot go there to help find them. Their comments cannot help in any way, but they're making a statement. One I hope is heartfelt.

Alice Jones Webb said...

You're right, Flame. I just read a news story saying that the US will be sending intelligence help to Nigeria (an area that they lack). And the celebrities can't do anything, in the same way I can't either. I guess the selfies are just another symptom of our lives lived out loud on social media. But that would be a whole other topic, I think...