In preparing for Africa, we have been grateful for the many technological tools we have at our disposal. We have smartphones, tablets, laptops, digital cameras. We have blogs, FaceBook, Twitter. We’re learning about data roaming, Viber, FaceTime, special international calling plans. We’re loading books on eReaders and we’re writing journals in the cloud. And hashtags. We’re doing hashtags.
I’ve known about hashtags for some time now. Basically, hashtags are the speed dial of social media. If you tap the right hashtag about the right subject, you can pick up on news feeds and trending topics. You can be informed.
At some point, the topic came up and a decision was made that our team needed a hashtag.
To be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to that conversation because I am really not all that good at social media and thought that I would simply opt out of the hashtaggery. Before I knew it. We had a hashtag.
As a person who prefers 4-digit passwords, I was pretty sure that I would never be able to remember this one. Twenty-six characters counting the #. That’s like an alphabet. And it didn’t even have the name of my first dog embedded in it. Too much, I thought. Too much. I’ll never learn it.
But then, seeing other team members put it to use — and noticing when they would take my postings and dutifully repost with the hashtag — I decided to give it a try.
# – That part was easy.
SMU – Important. Tells people the origin of our group. This is a sponsored trip organized by the Dispute Resolution and Conflict Resolution Program at Southern Methodist University.
Rwanda – Where we’re going.
PeaceMission – What we’re doing.
2014 – When we’re going.
Painstakingly adding “#SMURwandaPeaceMission2014” to my post, I realized that basically I was achieving the equivalent of my first presentation in Speech 101. The hashtag attracted attention, told who we were, where we were going, what we were going to do, and when we were going to do it. As I prepared to click the “Tweet” button, I tried to remember what we were trained to do to overcome speech anxiety. So I imagined everybody on the Internet was naked.
Turns out, many are. But that’s beside the point.
We are not just taking a trip. We are telling a story. And whether we do it in 26 characters or a picture or a thousand words, it’s a story that will change many lives.