Defining the Hashtag Resistance — Imagining Our Futures

Branding yourself as a #activist.

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Social media has heightened our sense of selves. We may not realize it but I believe most of us that use social media have cultivated a “brand” for ourselves. Have you been on your social media and thought about posting or liking something when you stop short of tapping the screen to go through with it? You question, Is this something I would share? Does this fit my profile? How would people react to this coming from me? I know I’ve had this thought process. Sometimes I go through with it and others times I rethink it and decide not to post, for many reasons. We think these things for different reasons but you’ve most likely done it. I’ve seen this trend become more apparent among my friends, and myself, with the increase in numbers of us who are politically involved.

Brand — attempting to create a specific image of yourself on social media
Politically involved — those who actively follow politics and/or have political opinions that they are willing to share.

Activism floods my Facebook feed every day. That’s because I’m a liberal, friends with a lot of liberals, we’re in college, and our country is in shifty political waters at the moment. I want to explore how our social media profiles affect what we’re standing up for and how strongly. Our profiles are carefully curated, showing the aspects of our lives we want the world to see. Facebook encourages you to sum up your life into a bio and five images, not including your profile picture and cover photo of course. Whenever I go to share something on Facebook there’s a voice in the back of my head reminding me, Your family sees this. One day an employer could see this. Do you want the possible repercussions? And our images become carefully positioned, maybe without realizing it. Then the question becomes, why do people do it?

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This is around the time in my thought process on this subject that I decided to go through some political hashtags on Instagram. I looked up the tags activist, social justice, and resist. What is it about being seen being politically active that we crave so much? The search results for these tags brings up hundreds of thousands of images, with more added each day. The images vary, but a hallmark that I noticed was the image of people posing with political signs at different rallies and protests. So I got to thinking, what portion of people showing political involvement on social media are doing it for just that — social media? Is this a large percentage? How do I even quantify this? The answer is you cannot.

I could never attempt to verify or qualify why some people show their political involvement on social media. It’s not a fair question to ask and it’s likely that few people would answer truthfully. However, it’s an interesting thought because I have heard people who consider themselves to be “serious activists” judge their social media friends to be posting things just for looks. They believe that these people in question are contriving a “brand” for themselves on social media as an activist. In my further research, I hope to question those who see this in others, in hopes of understanding more about how college activists imagine themselves as interacting with the politics of social media.