What Hashtagged In 2016? Women's Rights, Pollution And Pokemon Go

Dec 29, 2016
Originally published on December 29, 2016 5:01 pm

It's been a lively year for social media mavens as they hashtagged their way through the ups, the downs and the downright silly.

The past 12 months have been characterized by radical political change, and folks around the world have used hashtags to launch serious debates about politicians and policies. In Zimbabwe, as Goats and Soda reported earlier this year, activists used slogans like #ThisFlag to demand government reform.

Meanwhile, Indians and Chinese hashtagged their smog-related woes. And Thai women posted pictures of themselves bathing in potholes to draw attention to unrepaired, crumbling roads.

Activists also used hashtags to protest violence against women and to champion women's rights.

Hashtags had a lighter side as well. Over the summer, social media users around the world came together to tweet about #RioOlympics — which was one of the world's top hashtags this year, according to Twitter.

Then, of course, there's one very important topic that that high-, middle- and low-income countries couldn't stop discussing: #PokemonGo.

We sorted through a year's worth of global hashtags that touch on topics we cover in this blog. Here's a sampling that made an impact, attracted the attention of mainstream media and captured — in one way or another — the public's mood in 2016.

#InternationalWomensDay

This day to celebrate women and women's rights has been held on March 8 every year since 1918 — and officially recognized by the United Nations since 1975. But it had renewed energy in 2016: According to Twitter, #InternationalWomensDay was one of the year's top trending topics. It didn't hurt that celebrities and notable women from around the world, including first lady Michelle Obama and supermodel Gisele Bundchen, tweeted to celebrate the occasion.

#NoEsNo

This year, women from Brazil to South Africa to Turkey to Ukraine used various hashtags on social media to raise awareness about rape and sexual assault. Starting over spring 2016, Mexican activists used #NoEsNo ("no means no") to protest violence against women — and urged authorities to enact and enforce policies that better protect women.

#SaveAleppo

As government forces narrowed in on rebel-held Aleppo, activists around the world used #SaveAleppo to raise awareness about the desperate situation in Syria. People shared photos and videos of bombed buildings and urged their world leaders to intervene. And they expressed grief for the communities in Aleppo and the thousands of lives that were destroyed.

The hashtag was used more than 100,000 times the day it first started trending on April 8, and many hundreds of thousands of times more this winter, when the army took complete control of east Aleppo.

#Demonetisation

As part of a government campaign aimed at cutting down black market dealings and smoking out those who hoard cash and don't pay taxes, India voided all existing 500- and 1,000-rupee notes. So Indians turned to Twitter to air their grievances against the scheme, which is viewed as a ploy to "demonetize" the cash-based Indian economy and encourage people to use cards instead.

The new policy, which has disproportionately affected poor people without checking accounts or credit cards, has led to long lines outside ATMs.

#TheMostSeriousSmog

The chronic air pollution in northern China has been especially bad this winter, and hundreds of thousands of users on the Chinese social network Weibo are saying it's the worst they've ever experienced. They're using #TheMostSeriousSmog to voice their frustrations and their fears for their health.

#IndigenousDads

When The Australian newspaper published a cartoon depicting an Aboriginal father holding a beer can and unable to remember his son's name, indigenous Australians called the caricature offensive and racist. Online, they responded by posting uplifting photos of themselves with their dads and father figures using #IndigenousDads.

#IfAfricaWasASchool

This summer, African Twitter users had a bit of fun by assigning schoolyard archetypes to countries on the continent. As we reported, there seemed to be a general consensus that Egypt would be the snob, and Nigeria would be most popular.

#BidoungChallenge

Another hashtag that inspired hilarity in Africa this summer was #BidoungChallenge. When Cameroonian sports minister Bidoung Kpwatt took an especially deep bow to greet President Paul Biya, social media users started using the hashtag to post pictures of themselves re-enacting his obsequious dip.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.