As the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag turns 5 years old, its evolution on Twitter and how Americans view social media’s impact on political and civic engagement is the subject of a recent study from the Pew Research Center. The study found that the hashtag remains highly relevant.
#BlackLivesMatter has inspired the start of other hashtag movements, highlighting the role of social media in modern American activism and protest, especially for underrepresented communities, the survey finds. More than half of all Americans have engaged in at least one “political or social-minded activity” on social media in the past year, according to the study. They include people looking up information on local protests, using hashtags relating to a political issue, or encouraging others to take action.
The hashtag, which was first coined following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, has become an archetypal example of modern protests and political engagement on social media, according to the study. The Pew Research Center analysis of public tweets found the hashtag has been used nearly 30 million times on Twitter – an average of 17,002 times per day – as of May 1, 2018.
The rise of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag – along with others like #MeToo and #MAGA (Make America Great Again) – has sparked a broader discussion about the effectiveness and viability of using social media for political engagement and social activism. To that end, a new survey by the Center finds that majorities of Americans do believe these sites are very or somewhat important for accomplishing a range of political goals, such as getting politicians to pay attention to issues (Sixty-nine percent of Americans feel these platforms are important for this purpose) or creating sustained movements for social change (67 percent).