Yesterday, it was brought to the world’s attention that it was exactly one year since more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Nigeria by the Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram.
This outrage took the social media world by storm a year ago, with millions of people posting and using the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. Even Michelle Obama was photographed holding a sign reading “Bring Back Our Girls”. I myself joined in with the response on social media, changing my profile picture on Facebook to the one above, and posting about how shocking this kidnapping was.
The worldwide condemnation of this brutal act continued for a few weeks, with articles following the Nigerian army and police force as they tried to locate the girls; but as the weeks wore on with no sightings, the social media world moved on, and something else began “trending”.
Since then, I have to admit with a hanging head that I’ve not thought much about those girls or what has happened to them. The world is a scary and horrifying place, and the crimes committed by IS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and the like have outraged me every time, drawing my attention away from the quiet desperation of Chibok and their missing daughters.
There has been much condemnation of social media because it has largely forgotten the Chibok girls. I too am a little bit ashamed of all of us for not thinking about them. However, the campaign did raise awareness and push the Nigerian government to do something, and some of the girls have escaped or been found. Sadly, it is estimated that about 219 of them are still missing, and goodness only knows what horrors they are being subjected to on a daily basis.
But this is not the fault of social media. I have been involved with many campaigns and signed many petitions, written many emails to MPs, planning authorities, world governments and corporations, all as a result of being on social media. I campaign via some wonderful campaign organisations, such as 38 Degrees, All Out, SumOfUs and Avaaz. Only yesterday, in response to international pressure largely coming from All Out supporters, five Chinese lesbian women were released from jail after having been detained for organising a peaceful demonstration fighting for equality. Each time this happens, I feel that I am making a difference in the world despite my physical and geographical limitations.
So don’t knock social media. It may sometimes be frivolous, fun and insincere, but it can also be a powerful force for change in the world. Get on there and start campaigning!