On March 8, when you saw a post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #InternationalWomensDay or #IWD2015, what did you do? Did you like or share the photo? Did you try to figure out more about International Women’s Day? Did you question gender boundaries?

You, like me, probably did nothing. At most, you read the content, sent out a quick response or had a conversation about the topic, and then moved on. Through talking about three campaigns, I will show you that a human rights social media campaign has no impact on long-term change. These campaigns only raise awareness for a short amount of time, and then become erased in memory.

On International Women’s Day this year, one of the most popular campaigns was the #NotThere campaign. Social media users removed their profile photos and replaced it with the silhouette of a woman, showing that there is a long way to go to achieve gender equality. According to the New York Times, the campaign also removed women’s faces from 40 advertisements — leaving blank spaces where Scarlett Johansson was on the March cover of W magazine and where Serena Williams was on a billboard in Times Square.

The #NotThere campaign was great for a one-day campaign: it drove over 100,000 people to learn about gender equality by visiting the Not There website and interacting with data involving the status of women and girls. But I, like journalist Mahvish Ahmed, believe many readers and future activists needed to hear more of the emotional stories to understand the heart of the human rights issue instead of just seeing the numbers. Now more than a month after International Women’s Day, #NotThere is literally not there and the data is no longer publicized. #NotThere brought up gender inequality issues for one day, allowing the public to momentarily be more aware.

Beginning in late September 2014 and ending on Dec. 15, 2014, the Occupy Central conflict began in Hong Kong through protests. According to an article in The China Journal by Ian Scott, the campaign’s primary demand was for citizens to directly nominate and elect the chief executive of Hong Kong’s government, instead of only having pro-Beijing chief executives elected. Western and international media quickly called these protests the “Umbrella Revolution,” since protesters used umbrellas to protect themselves against police brutality by tear gas.

On social media, Occupy Central created its own handle (@OCLPHR), which served as a united front to update protesters and share information. Content was released by protesters and supporters through the #OccupyHK and #UmbrellaRevolution hashtags. The social media campaign encouraged those in Hong Kong to unify and protest, and also allowed for international recognition on the human rights issue. Now, over six months after the Occupy Central campaign, the Hong Kong government has not budged, and requests for a complete democracy have been ignored.

The final example of a human rights social media campaign is the Human Rights Campaign’s support for marriage equality initiative. On March 25, 2013, the campaign launched, asking supporters to change their profile photo to a red-tinted version of the HRC logo. The new logo symbolized supporting marriage equality as the United States Supreme Court debated California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Celebrities, prominent brands, politicians and the American public turned the Internet into a sea of red, with over 2.7 million Facebook users updating their profile photos. Many think this campaign was successful due to mass awareness of the marriage equality discussion and what was and currently is at stake. Although there was mass awareness, I do not think most people learned more about human rights challenges facing non-heterosexual couples. To me, the mass awareness was more about everyone on social media feeling the need to fit in for a 24-to-48 hour period instead of gaining knowledge and advocating for long-term changes in marriage equality.

The International Women’s Day #NotThere campaign, Hong Kong’s Occupy Central campaign and HRC’s marriage equality campaign were all initiatives amplified by social media over a relatively short amount of time. In order for these campaigns to have any sort of long-term impact, campaign organizers must motivate social media users to understand the core of the issue and then provide clear action points to inspire change.

Keya Patel is an LSA senior.

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