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Happy birthday to the hashtag! Here are 5 times the # blew up social media

Image: 123RF

On this day, 11 years ago, the face of social media changed forever. 

Chris Messina, a social technology expert, is credited as having come up with the very first hash tag on Twitter. He first posted the hash tag #barcamp in August 2007. The whole tweet appeared like this:

Image: Twitter

This sparked a phenomenon globally and the hashtag became the most used tool on social media to date.

Let's take a look at five times the hash tag blew up:


Image: Twitter

Four years ago terrorist group Boko Haram abducted 276 girls from a high school in Chibok,Nigeria. The group was against westernized education which was said to be the reason behind the kidnapping, as the girls were preparing for exams. This sparked international outcry and the #BringBackOurGirls campaign was born. World leaders and celebrities took to social media in support of the campaign, the most popular one being former first lady Michelle Obama.  According to an article by the Associated press, one girl still remains with the group.


Image: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A 17 year old Florida teenager by the name of Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a local neighbourhood watch captain, George Zimmerman in America in 2012. This incident led to the  #BlackLivesMatter movement. Two years later the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri  occurred which led to national protests in the states. This movement was a powerful political message which even featured in statements and speeches given by former American president, Barack Obama. In an article by Mail & Guardian, South Africa has not really made use of the hash tag and need to do so immediately as police brutality is higher here than in the states.

3. #MeToo

Image: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

American activist, Tarana Burke started the #MeToo movement back in 2006. This particular movement  was started to encourage women to stand together and speak up about sexual harassment.  It gained traction last year in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. Actress Alyssa Milano was responsible for the phrase going viral in a tweet last year. Still largely used, the #MeToo movement pushed women worldwide to speak out and tell their stories of sexual harassment. 



This was a movement started by students at the University of Witwatersrand in February three years ago. It was in support of the high registration fees and high fees students had to pay, some, who could not afford to. The movement spread like wildfire and became an international ideology that a number of students veered towards as students from countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, and China stood in solidarity with South Africa and protested in their own countries. Universities across South Africa were affected to the extent of postponing exams and classes. In 2016 there was some sort of breakthrough when former President Jacob Zuma announced a 0% fee increase for 2017. In the wake of the protests, many were jailed and are now seeking amnesty from President Cyril Ramaphosa.


total shutdown march
Image: Thuli Dlamini

Started in South Africa,  #TheTotalShutdown  movement came about to fight violence against women in the country. The march took place at the beginning of this month across all nine provinces.  Marches also took place  in Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia. According to the organisers, another one is set to take place in what is set to be a powerful movement by the nation's women.

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