When Hashtag Hijacking Goes Right

When the subject of Twitter comes up with certain people, the response is usually the same and said in a rather whiny, annoyed tone:

“I don’t want to see pictures of what other people had for breakfast.”

It’s at this point that I launch into my usual defense of the social media platform, explaining how it’s a great way to keep up on news, you can learn an amazing amount, it can be an amazing tool for distributing information, blah, blah, blah.

And then you have people like isotope geochemist and laboratory scientist Hope Jahren who last week employed the old (and correct) adage, “Show, don’t tell.”

Slate magazine’s Future Tense blog had a great story last week about how Jahren and other female scientists decided to make a point by “hijacking” Seventeen’s “Manicure Monday” event, where the magazine encourages young women to upload photos of what their manicures, using the hashtag #ManicureMonday.

For the record, “hashtag hijacking” (as it’s referred to), usually isn’t a good thing: Just ask McDonalds or JPMorgan Chase. The scientists’ motive, though, wasn’t to attack the publication. Their plan was to use the Twitter dialogue to upload photos of their own nails working on research or experiments, hopefully encouraging young women to look at the bigger picture.

Seventeen magazine has 700,000 followers,” said Jahren in the Slate article, “and it’s my dream they’ll retweet one of these images to show their followers, presumably a lot of girls, that it’s about what their hands do—not about how they look.”

Jahren had plenty of support from colleagues in the scientific community and the results were incredibly interesting:





In the end, though, the results weren’t all that Jahren had hoped for, as she discussed on her blog.

While hashtag hijacking isn’t kosher, the reason behind this one was incredibly laudable. It’s no secret that not nearly enough young women are being encouraged to study math, science or technology.  Jahren and her fellow scientists not only made an impressive effort, but used the right platform to hit their core audience.

Interestingly enough, Jahren noted in the Slate article how she is criticized by others in the scientific community for using social media.

“When her academic colleagues asked her why she wastes her time tweeting, Jahren responds by saying it’s better than wasting her time writing publications nobody will ever read.”

Hopefully an influx of female scientists in the near future will prove to her critics that Jahren is right.

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