Social media has changed the way people communicate and how ideas spread around around the globe. Twitter played a huge part in the Arab Spring, a series of revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa. The 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2015 Super Bowl were some of the most tweeted about events in history. With social media came the hashtag, a way to group a series of tweets into one conversation. Some are hilarious, some are political, and others bring awareness to social issues. The problem with hashtags is that we live in a world of 24/7 instant news, and they are almost always forgotten about about after a few weeks, or even just a couple of days. Here are 11 viral hashtags that took over our newsfeeds before we promptly moved on to the next big thing.
Remember when the next ice age was descending upon North America in early 2014? Someone dubbed it the Polar Vortex, which is an insanely stupid name. We preferred to call it “winter.” Yes, it was damn cold outside but that’s no reason to flood social media with this ridiculous hashtag. Please put #PolarVortex into retirement, along with #Icepocalypse and #Snowmageddon.
In 2013, notorious internet pranksters 4chan started a viral campaign that singer and actress Miley Cyrus had contracted AIDS. They even circulated an official looking (but still fake) CNN article about it and made a Facebook page. This was around the same time her image was being trashed for that performance at the MTV Video Music Awards and the highly-sexual music video for her song “Wrecking Ball.” Thousands of gullible Twitter users ate it up, tweeting out the #CureForMiley hashtag before the scam was revealed.
At the start of the 2014-15 NFL season, running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely after a shocking video of him knocking his then-fiancee unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Despite the violence, Janay Rice stayed with and married Ray, speaking a national debate about #WhyILeft or #WhyIStayed, as victims of domestic violence told their stories. Many people realized that the decision to leave an abusive relationship is not always as black and white as it seems.
Hands up if you dumped a bucket of ice water on your head in the summer of 2014? Yeah, we thought so. The viral marketing/fundraising campaign for ALS (also known as Lou Gerhig’s Disease) was a smash success. You probably watched #IceBucketChallenge videos made by anyone and everyone, from that guy on Facebook you haven’t talked to since high school to major celebrities. LeBron James did his on the deck of his yacht! Even better, millions of dollars were raised to help fight a disease that has no known cure.
The last words of Eric Garner, a 43-year old man who killed during his arrest in Staten Island, New York in July 2014. Police officers placed him in a chokehold during the arrest, and did not release him until he lost consciousness despite video evidence showing that he warned them he couldn’t breathe eleven different times. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, but the officers involved were not charged. It sparked massive outrage and protests, and some of the biggest celebrities in the world wore shirts emblazoned with the #ICantBreathe hashtag to show support.
For some reason, Kim Kardashian is famous. For some reason, she thought posing for nude photos in Paper magazine would break the internet. We can’t wrap our heads around either of those things, but the photos did create quite the buzz. For about two days. It’s nothing we haven’t already seen, Kim. It would take a lot more than Mrs. Kayne West’s naked butt to #BreakTheInternet. Good try, though.
French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo refused to be censored by religious extremists who claim that publishing drawings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad is blasphemous. In January 2015, two Muslim brothers responded by opening fire in the paper’s Paris office and killed 12 people and injured another 11. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (which translates to “I Am Charlie” in English) quickly became not only a message of love and support for those affected by the tragedy, but a battle cry for free speech everywhere. Charlie Hedbo even used it on the cover of their first issue after the shooting, which depicted Muhammad holding up a sign with the slogan on it.
The United States men’s soccer team managed to defy the pundits and escape from the Group of Death during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. In a knockout game against Belgium, American goalkeeper Tim Howard was the star of the show. He had a record-breaking 16 saves in one game and inspired the #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave hashtag and a ton of great memes. He was even briefly named the country’s Secretary of Defense on Wikipedia. Unfortunatly, his herculean performance wasn’t enough, as the U.S. lost 2-1 in extra time.
In April 2014, Islamic extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 female students from the town of Chibok, Nigeria. The world was outraged, and people everywhere demanded some sort of reaction. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was launched, and even Michelle Obama took up the cause. Sadly, like most thing on social media, it was quickly forgotten about. Over a year later and almost all of the girls are still missing, and many are feared dead.
After Elliot Rodger gunned down six people in California in May 2014, it was revealed that part of his motivation was a desire to punish women for rejecting him. A conversation about feminism, sexism, and misogyny quickly took over Twitter. Some people used the hashtag #NotAllMen in an attempt to show that not all men looked down on females. Females responded with #YesAllWomen, saying that every single woman has had to deal with instances of sexism, discrimination, and/or violence because of their gender.
The mother of all viral campaigns. The video produced by the charity Invisible Children was supposed to bring attention to international fugitive Joseph Kony, known for recruiting/abducting children and using them as soldiers and sex slaves. The charity sold starter kits with posters and bracelets, and set of a goal of having Kony arrested by the end of 2012. However, when co-founder Jason Russell was arrested for allegedly running naked through the streets of San Diego while masturbating, support for the movement basically died out overnight. Kony remains a fugitive to this day.