While teaching at MNN (Manhattan Neighborhood Network), my friend Destiny and I created and facilitated a course titled: Social Media for Social Good where we encouraged high school and college students to look at social media’s effects on real life social justice movements. During this time we looked platforms like Facebook and Instagram. We studied hashtags like #blacklivesmatter , #iftheygunnedmedown and #sayhername. We analyzed if these hashtags and social media campaigns and questioned if they were just a trend or a legitimate social justice movement that could have real life repercussions. At the time we concluded it was a mixture of both.
If I were to recreate this course today, I would take a look at #blackouttuesday . I’m always weary in partaking on trending hashtags and other social media trends since they tend to happen and spread so quickly, it doesn’t give me enough time to thoroughly research it before posting. This one in particular was suppose to be a way to “blackout” large corporations that “support BLM” but not in the best and most effective way. It was suppose to be a hashtag to bring awareness to issues and resources surrounding the BLM and at the time, the recent police brutality incidents that caused the death of Brianna Taylor and George Floyd. The hashtag was started by the music industry but it was quickly co-opted and appropriated by thousands of accounts that were simply trying to be part of the “trend.” These didn’t bring any attention to police brutality, didn’t offer resources to help organizations and individuals in the BLM nor did they even mention the names of Taylor and Floyd. So what was the point? Did this social media campaign make a difference? When scholars (DH scholars) look back, will this be seen as an effective campaign or as another selfish, attention seeking, trend for millennials to “feel connected” and “part of something”?
I thought about these questions while reading Kelly Gallon’s Making a Case for Black DH. Her piece emphasizes the importance of studying Black DH and other so called “Black Humanities” through the perspective of Black people. Were these hashtags created by Black people to bring awareness and start a discussion among their own? Can others partake? And in so, in what ways? How will these discussions and social media campaigns be perceived by the people of this communities in the future? How and by whom are they being persevere? Are they worth it?