Jack Tame: Are hashtag tears for real?

The site of a massive truck bomb explosion in Baghdad this week. Photo / AP
The site of a massive truck bomb explosion in Baghdad this week. Photo / AP

How's Joseph Kony these days? It is what - four years - since that video everyone shared and made Kony famous on Facebook.

I suppose he is still doing what he always did best, leading drug-warped child soldiers through African jungles and generally war-lording away. He still hasn't been captured.

For that matter, how's the hashtag campaign to return that group of kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls from the grasp of Boko Haram? Funny how #bringbackourgirls isn't trending on Twitter any more.

It's hard not to be cynical about the power of hashtag activism. Social media makes it too easy to give a damn for five minutes and then move on to something else.

It has become trendy, even, to react immediately to whatever tragedy is dominating headlines. You do your social and you've done your bit. Or so the thinking sometimes goes.

Okay, so perhaps I'm being a bit rough. I'm sure people often have the best of intentions.

How many used that tri-colour Facebook profile filter after the Paris terror attacks? How many people used a rainbow filter after the massacre in Orlando?

And here's a question - did those same people use filters after this week's attacks in Bangladesh? The bombing in Istanbul? The car bomb attack in Baghdad?


I have a friend who refuses to give money to homeless people.

He swears he isn't heartless (the jury's out) but insists that in giving money to one homeless person, he's effectively deciding that person is worthier of help than all the other homeless people he is confronted by.

It's an all-or-nothing equation for him, and who is he to choose? It's a cold piece of economic theory applied in a social context.

I appreciated Auckland woman Rania Alani changing the Sky Tower's colours to mark the Iraq attack, just as the tower lit up after attacks in Belgium and France.

Her challenge to our society's obvious bias would've been a wake-up call for a few people.

But sadly I'm not sure there is an easy solution to the same bias many of us have in our social media activism. Do we selectively mark some tragedies or none at all?

• Jack Tame is on NewstalkZB Saturdays, 9am-noon.

- Herald on Sunday

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