Parents of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls are hoping for a miracle. So far, all they have is a hashtag and Unless you live under a rock, you’ve see it, #BringBackOurGirls. It only took over three weeks after Islamic extremists abducted the girls for anyone to pay any attention but do you think that this sudden online interest will last? Will it take it from just a trending topic to an actual call for action.
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 attention.
More than 2.1 million tweets using #BringBackOurGirls have been posted. 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.
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. Unfortunately 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. The campaign lacks the information to do much more than educate.
So social media won’t find them, but it could fuel discussions on injustice and what led to the kidnappings.