What Happened to #BringBackOurGirls?

I love social media. In fact, I get most of my news from social media. I remember when people used to say, “If it’s not on CNN, it didn’t happen.” Now you just need to see multiple status updates of the same news item to believe it. Social media, much like any other news source, is a world where the next big story can change in a matter of seconds, minutes or days. Worse still, most of the news gets lost and never makes it to our status updates.

It is not so much the media as it is humanity that is to blame. I too have been guilty of constantly desiring the most up-to-date information on numerous topics, including politics, sports and culture. That said, sometimes we read about an incident that should not be forgotten. This time, I can’t stop thinking about the 276 kidnapped girls from Chibok and the social media movement that rallied behind them. With coverage dwindling on this subject, I am left wondering what happened to #BringBackOurGirls? Like other big stories, it seems to have all but disappeared.

It is not that we should downplay the World Cup, the recent violence in Nigeria or the national economy. These are news items that most of us want to know about. In fact, I think there needs to be a larger dialogue about terrorism in Africa. Fortunately, there are still loyal activists working to bring home the missing girls. They are still riding on the back of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. Nonetheless, how can a hashtag used to sum up the plight of 276 girls have practically disappeared so quickly?

Beyond the controversy of who started the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls is or was, depending on whom you ask, a social justice movement. In marketing it is best to latch on to something while it is hot and better still to be the trendsetter. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls itself is and was genius as a call to action rallying troops of worldly citizens to march and stand up for an end to terrorism regardless of their differing religious beliefs. Unfortunately, I am now left to question the longevity of social media campaigns as part of social justice movements. I find myself critiquing my tactic of inviting people to join the movement to free the girls by using a hashtag that I know can only have a short lifespan.

I don’t think social media needs to change, but how we use it should. We should focus on pushing the news items that matter to us. By doing so, we can use social media to share the news that matters to us. As an optimist, I think social media can revamp a movement. Maybe it is time for us to look beyond branding and trendsetting, and to consider the possibility of embracing social media as a tool for action. We still have work to do; 219 girls are still missing.

Maybe, in doing so, #BringBackOurGirls will continue after the girls are found. Maybe years from now it will symbolize the right of every girl to live in peace, pursue her dreams and get an education. In doing so, we could show the world that social media movements are about raising awareness; that we control the story by continuing to discuss what matters in our status updates; and that stories like #BringBackOurGirls cannot be easily forgotten until we achieve our aims.

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