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The Most Problematic Hashtags of 2016 (So Far)

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCNJ chapter.

Although one can argue that social media (and all of the hashtags/videos of cute puppies/quick and seemingly easy food recipe videos that come along with it) can be used for good, it can sometimes be used to spread intolerance and downright hate.

The trending topics area of Twitter is just one of the many ways in which social media can spread lies, raise awareness or cause really anything in between. In 2016, hashtags have become more than just the pound sign with a funny saying after it; it has, in a very small sense, become a symbol of the right to free speech. Anyone can hashtag anything and if it picks up momentum – as some of the ones that I will be talking about shortly have done – more people than you ever could have imagined would be able to see it and share their personal beliefs on the idea.

Unfortunately, there have been very problematic hashtags, especially recently, mostly concerning social issues happening within the United States. So since 2016 is not yet over and I cannot guarantee there will be hashtags more offensive than the following ones (although I’m almost sure there will be), I will share with you what I have found and remember throughout this interesting year as well as attempt to explain my thought process.

First and foremost is the inevitable #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. Despite this particular hashtag being a presidential candidate’s campaign slogan, it has become much more than that. It has become an ideology behind some very extreme, hateful, and frankly, unintelligent (or possibly unaware) people. Political views aside, sit back and ask yourself when America was truly ever great… really think hard about it. Was it when the Europeans traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in discovery of the New World only to slaughter the Native Americans who were here first and already established a home? Or maybe when white people imported an entire race of people from Africa to enslave them against their will for hundreds of years? Maybe America was great when we “freed” those same slaves, but continued to kid ourselves into believing that “separate but equal” actually worked? Or not giving those same people the right to vote (permanently) until 1965? How about when the LGBTQ+ community was not given the right to legally marry until 2015? America was great when the quota for European immigrants (who were considered white in America) was much higher than the quota for those from Africa or Asia which inherently made white people the majority, right? Wrong. I dare those people who stand up for this hashtag and the entire ideology behind it to point to a period in our history where we were truly and honestly great. It is not about politics or about the candidates themselves, it is about the truth. Because if one cannot back up a statement as huge as this, then why are people still saying it at all?

Next up is #AllLivesMatter. Yup, I’m going there. Everyone is aware of the issues the United States has concerning the police force and members of the black community, so I will offer no history of it. If you don’t know by now, you have not been alive for the past two years, so catch up. Anyway, because of all the violence towards the black community, the movement #BlackLivesMatter began. Now, here’s the catch: they didn’t say that any other life didn’t matter or even that their lives matter more, they are simply stating a fact. Black. Lives. Matter. I don’t think there’s an argument that they don’t, so why do people feel the need to reinforce the idea that all lives matter? Are all lives at risk for being killed at a routine traffic stop? Or having your hood up, reaching into your pocket for a bag of skittles? Or even selling cigars on the side of the street, trying to tell the police and the people around you, “I can’t breathe”? I think everyone can honestly answer, no. Not all lives are at risk in those situations – only minority ones are, especially black lives. Now, I realize that crime and the gun epidemic are huge problems in the black community as well, so although I do not personally believe that a gun should be used unless absolutely necessary, I can see where police would be nervous in certain situations; however, the situations caught on video tape, (most) do not require gun use or physical violence whatsoever. They are senseless acts that end people’s lives for no good, real reason. The reason for all of these problems within the black community though, stem from issues that I don’t have the time to talk about in this article.

Circling back to the real topic, the #BlackLivesMatter has a legitimate reason for its protests and outrage towards the police force. By saying #AllLivesMatter (an obvious truth), you are undermining the importance of the issues that the BLM movement is standing for.

Last, but certainly not least, is the wonderful hashtag #RepealThe19th. For those who are unaware, the 19th amendment of the United States gives everyone, no matter their sex, the right to vote or in other words, finally gives women the right to vote. Ratified in August 1920, the 19th amendment became women’s way of fighting back from the oppression that they have been feeling for the past several hundred years. It is important to note though, that Asian Indian women did not get the right to vote until 1948, Asian American women until 1952, and African American women until 1965 (as previously stated).

This sexist hashtag gave rise only a few weeks back due to the polls showing that if women were not allowed to vote in this election, the presidential candidate, Mr. Donald Trump would be voted into office. So naturally, upon hearing this news, his male voters took to Twitter to tell the rest of the world to take away women’s right to vote (just as they want to take away women’s rights to their own bodies) so that Mr. Trump could win the presidency. The only rational option, right?

As you can (hopefully) tell, some of the hashtags making their way through the Twitter world are not as positive and uplifting as we would like for them to be; many are problematic and are only created to spread hate. I hope that the social media community will start to become more aware of how impactful the things said on it can be and as the rest of the non-virtual world should be doing, spreading love and kindness instead of hate and ignorance.

TCNJ Senior Journalism major, Interactive Multimedia minor.