Associated Press: Parents of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are hoping for a miracle. So far, all they have is a hashtag.
More than three weeks after Islamic extremists abducted the girls, world outrage is galvanizing Twitter and other social-media networks. But observers question whether the burst of online interest will last and whether it can ever elevate the case from a trending topic to a mandate for action.
”People are finally taking it seriously,” said Fayokemi Ogunmola, a Nigerian-born sophomore at the University of Rochester, who leads her campus Pan-African Students Association. Ongumola had followed the story since it broke April 15 but only recently saw more interest among classmates using the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag and wearing head wraps or the green and white of the Nigerian flag.
”It’s a nice thing to use social media to get it out. This is a step in the right direction,” Ogunmola said. ”But the point is to actually find the girls.”
All told, police say, more than 300 girls were abducted from their secondary school in the country’s remote northeast, and 276 remain in captivity. Though details of the abductions have been public since they were carried out, the case was not widely followed until #BringBackOurGirls and other hashtags attracted a torrent of attention.
More than 2.1 million tweets using #BringBackOurGirls have been posted, according to Topsy, a site that offers Twitter analytics. Interest was relatively low until last week, when celebrities including singer Chris Brown sent messages that were widely circulated.
More than 380,000 tweets carried the hashtag Wednesday, including one from Michelle Obama, who has been retweeted more than 53,000 times. Use continued to grow Thursday and Friday.
”We have discovered the power of the hashtag,” said Nigerian author Chibundu Onuzo, writing in The Guardian.
The flurry of attention on Nigeria brings to mind a similar campaign two years ago that introduced many people to Joseph Kony, a guerrilla leader whose group has abducted many Ugandan children who then became sex slaves or fighters. A video about Kony went viral in 2012, but public attention waned, and the warlord remains at large.
G. Nelson Bass III, a professor who teaches politics and international relations at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said the #BringBackOurGirls campaign appears far closer to the Kony campaign than to the kind of social media activity that organized much of the Arab Spring movement.
In the former case, public awareness widened but never resulted in any particular action, unlike in the Middle East, where social media were used to coordinate protests.
”At its current moment, I fear this campaign lacks the information to do much more than educate,” he said.
The acclaimed Nigerian-American author Teju Cole, writing for The New Yorker, called the abductions Twitter’s ”cause of the day.” Writing on Twitter, he suggested the hashtag campaign was accomplishing little, saying: ”For four years, Nigerians have tried to understand these homicidal monsters. Your new interest (thanks) simplifies nothing, solves nothing.”
So this actually worked. Enough people retweeted something to bring….AWARENESS. Next thing you know the kidnappers had laid down on their arms because they felt bad.
I’m just kidding it didn’t do anything at all. The guy at the end says it better than anyone.
Newsflash to Michelle Obama and everyone that thinks they’re making a difference by participating in this – the insane individuals with guns who did this are not at all intimidated because #bringbackourgirls on Twitter. Obviously you’re doing this because you’re a rich, narcissist that the media is fascinated with. Don’t let it fool you though, you’re not really making a difference.
What really makes this a fraudulent situation is that Michelle will forget about this in a week when she goes back to doing what she has apparently done best – ruining school lunch for kids. Thank God Barbara Bush was just telling us to say no to drugs back in 89. Because guess what Michelle? You’re married to the fucking President. You have more influence than anyone in this country besides the President. If you want an invasion of Nigeria, you’re getting it.
Look, I don’t what you’re trying to do here. Are you trying to bring awareness to this? Because you were very good at that. But what do you wanna do about it? Because a hashtag campaign I assure you will do jack diddly poo. If you want these girls to live then an international coalition has to assemble to do it. Which of course means America and Australia.
Look, I get that you wanna see these girls live. We all do obviously. But all I’ve gotta say to Michelle Obama and the politicians that will push to invade the 8th largest country in the world, is that their kids have to go. Unless you’re willing to send your kids to fight in a war, then you’re just not that into that war. Because invading Africa isn’t really on the American agenda and it’s not something most Americans are willing to let other Americana die for.
Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.