What’s Sex Got To Do With… #Hashtags?

It’s funny how in today’s society, you can type less than 140 characters, click “Tweet”, and mark your place in a social movement. With the rise of Twitter and the popularization of the usage of hashtags, a form of label creation used on social media, groups have begun to use this tool to create a virtual community that supports their efforts. Over the past year, hashtags have been used to bring awareness to social issues via Twitter by making them “trend”.

Social media is a powerful tool. After the video of Ray Rice assaulting his wife in an elevator went viral, many feminists, men, and women were enraged. As a result, a twitter campaign was created to inspire victims of domestic abuse to stand up and share their stories through the hashtag #WhyIStayed. In this hashtag, victims explained why they stayed with their abusers. This way, those surfing the Internet would see on their “Twitter feeds” these stories and be able to put a face and name to the statistics of domestic violence. It personalized instances of domestic violence and brought awareness to how common but subtle it is. In the same way, photographer Donna Ferrato captured domestic violence and personalized it through her art exhibit “I am Unbeatable”, which documented accounts of domestic violence to exemplify the difficulties for victims to leave their abusers. Her artwork went on and focused on individuals even further and how despite having left their abusers, victims were still facing difficulties from their abusers.

Digiorno’s Pizza took this new trending hastag, #WhyIStayed, as a perfect opportunity to capitalize on and create a joke out of a very disturbing phenomenon. An intern at the pizza company tweeted, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” After receiving overwhelming criticism about this tweet, which trivialized domestic violence, Digiorno removed it. Digiorno’s mistake highlights a problem in our society: corporations are using social media and serious social campaigns to attract consumers.

Will this take away from growing social movements? Is it acceptable for corporations to exploit social media and social movements for their own capital gains?

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