Hashtags Are More Than Hashtags

In Articles by JoseLeave a Comment

This post is borrowed from Jose Vilson’s intro to our latest newsletter. If you’d like to subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter, please click here.

Hashtags aren’t just hashtags.

Much of the criticism lobbed towards “hashtag activism” is that it isn’t substantive or tantamount to actual change. Yet, the hashtag has formed a digital symbolism for anyone and everyone to galvanize their ideas and visions around. Sometimes, that’s to the benefit of casual and power users of social media and other times, it can perpetuate the same power structures we see in “real life.” As if our digital lives aren’t real enough.

Observe the kerfuffle around any number of education hashtags. In the beginning, an edu-hashtag seemed to house every connected educator in the country, then the world. Over time, it becomes the go-to hashtag for the latest and greatest in education. Yet, as more educators hopped onto social media, more chats needed to flourish. Now, we are up to over 100 specialized education hashtags, all with their own flavor.

Yet, from our point of view, many of them lost relevance for continually addressing the same topics. There are only so many times we can discuss 1-to-1 laptops and professional learning communities while the rest of Twitter can inform us on the rest of our world more readily. This goes for 95% of the hashtags in our education space.

#EduColor has won the hearts of many in the midst of the hashtaggery not for its newness, but for its nimbleness. We did away with formulas for hashtag success and put it in the hands of passionate, intelligent, witty, and empathetic folks. The underlying principles of the hashtag make it so anyone who uses the hashtag should expect uncomfortable conversations around race, not as an afterthought.

With one foot squarely in the education realm, and another in the current zeitgeist, our critical lens on intersectional race has pushed other chats to rethink their oft-discussed, rarely-deconstructed silos. [Mind you: connected educators have used the term “silo” to describe their own digital work since I’ve been on Twitter … which is about seven years now.] With only a few weeks left until the start of school, now is the perfect time to open our collective pupils and integrate the most difficult and uncomfortable topics of our time into our curricula, subsuming our interests into a more representative totality of our works.

Because hashtags, like any other grouping, aren’t just hashtags. They’re the symbol of solidarity with the principles (if there are any) for anyone who so much as utters it. Let’s build.

photo c/o

Leave a Comment