Not Just ‘Cat Videos’: 10 Social Media Trends Of 2015 That Supported Good Causes

Posted on December 21, 2015 in Lists, Media, Staff Picks

By Shruti Sonal:

Social media and its evils are often highlighted by many (especially parents). Be it sleep deprivation, the “selfie mania” taking lives or the trend of abusive trolls not allowing open debates. Along with these, proponents of the “Clash of Civilisations” theory often argue that the globalisation of the world, through improvement in communication and technology would lead to conflicts over identity as people became more aware of the differences.

However, social media has time and again rebuked this assumption. While last year instances like #IndiaWithPakistan and #Illridewithyou provided hope, this year, trends in India as well as the world, broke taboos and provided support during crisis and bred hope for an inclusive world.


The hashtag that emerged in the aftermath of the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French magazine, quickly went on to become one of the most popular tags in Twitter’s history. It was used both to show solidarity with the victims of the attack as well as defend freedom of speech and expression. It fuelled a debate revolving around the “right to offend” and also used during protests in Paris to defy Islamic extremism.


On June 26th, a SCOTUS decision that legalised same-sex marriage was celebrated throughout America and social media. While Facebook provided for rainbow filter DPs, Twitter attached the rainbow heart emoji with the tag #LoveWins. Tweeted by President Obama too, the tag was tweeted over 6.2 million times within 6 hours of the decision. Many used it to share personal stories of coming out while activists in other countries urged their leaders to follow in the footsteps.


Although the tag first emerged in the summer of 2013, it gained momentum in April after the death of a young black American Freddie Grey who died in police custody. With over 9 million tweets during the year, the tag became a rallying cry against institutionalisation of racial discrimination in America. It provided a unified platform for communities discussing events around Ferguson, Charleston shooting and Baltimore riots. The tag was widely used on banners and as graffiti during protests.


The innovative attempt was promoted by Reliance Group to show gratitude for the Armed Forces on the occasion of India’s independence day. It recorded over 100,000 tweets. Several prominent celebrities like cricketer M.S Dhoni and Amitabh Bachchan joined the public to use the platform to remember those martyred during the freedom struggle and those who continue to risk their lives in order to protect ours.


As thousands of refugees from the middle east, Africa and Afghanistan sought asylum in Europe, human rights leaders and citizens urged leaders to open their borders and welcome them. Images of drowned toddler Aylan Kurdi shook the conscience of people around the globe, and a call for a unified and compassionate response to the crisis grew in momentum on social media.


The tag started trending worldwide on June 28th after PM Modi asked people to post their photos during his radio address Mann ki Baat. The idea emerged during a contest started by the sarpanch of a village in Haryana – the state with the worst record of sex ratio in the country. Twitterati, including politicians, actors and common citizens flooded the site with selfies. The step however, had its critics as well, who debated its role in providing any meaningful contribution to the issue of girl rights and termed it a photo op.


A series of proposals of bans on porn, beef, the AIB roast, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and more recently the liquor ban in Bihar led to an outpour of sentiments on social media. While issues of freedom of speech and right to eat and watch what one likes in a democracy were debated, users also listed the demands to ban a number of things, including screaming journalists.


It emerged as the top twitter trend of the year in India. During the crisis (1st-4th December) the tag was used to unite users in providing aid. It was useful in providing ground reports, disseminating critical information and coordinating local relief efforts. Tweeted over 1.4 million times, it was a unique example of crowdsourced assistance to natural disasters. Many celebrities from the southern film industry and Bollywood joined in to appeal for relief.


In the aftermath of the recent terror attacks on Paris that took over 120 lives, the tag was used to channel prayers for the deceased and also put up a unified response against terror. Along with the tag #PorteOuverte, it was designed to help people in the city looking for shelter and also appealed to retain the fervour and ‘joi de vivre’ that the city represents. However the tag also came under criticism for “selective outrage” and parallel tags including #PrayForSyria, #PrayForLebanon and #PrayForPeace came up.


This tag started by an open letter published on Youth Ki Awaaz, led to a campaign on social media against menstrual taboos. Although the letter addressed the chief of the Sabarimala temple over talk of a “machine” to scan if it is the ‘right time’ for a woman to enter the temple, it enlarged into a wider campaign. Women and even men put up pictures holding up placards/sanitary napkins with the message “Happy Yo Bleed” written on it. It was covered widely on news channels, leading to debates about the position of women and notions of purity as prescribed by various religions.