Analyzing the Me Too Movement

Julkaistu 31.05.2018.

The Me Too Movement

From the 28th of May to the 18th of June, I will be dedicating my blog to posts written by students in the course Agency in Social Media who analyzed social media campaigns as part of their course work. The second post is by Nawal Sarouaou, Marianna Österlund, Sini Mari Karhu, Milla Kinnunen, Heidi Teppanainen, Milla Hannula, Janika Tilli and Radim Nigrin.

Analyzing Twitter

On Twitter, the Me Too movement has been one of the strongest online movements in 2017 which evolved dramatically over time. After the use of the hashtag #metoo the main message of the movement went viral. This enabled the users to join the movement quite easily and follow different tweeters and their stories.

The limited length of the tweets, makes it a very special platform. Users have 280 characters only to express their opinion (it was 140 characters only until late 2017). This limitation had a direct effect on the form and language of the Me Too tweets. The vast majority of #metoo tweeters use aesthetic language to show others their opinion concerning this cause. Tweeters also use very formal and grammatically correct language with minimal usage of emoticons to make their tweets look more serious and powerful. This characteristic emphasizes the importance of the cause.

The Me Too movement showed several other characteristics that originated because of the nature of social media and online communication. Social media, like Twitter, deepened the impact of the Me Too campaign in society. It gave people voice and united them for a common cause helping more women to step up and talk about their experience with sexual harassment forcing several public figures to resign from their positions due to accusations of sexual harassment. "The "Me Too" social media movement, which went viral after actress Alyssa Milano shared it on Twitter, has reached dozens of countries and millions of people. Twitter confirmed to CBS News that over 1.7 million tweets included the hashtag "#MeToo," with 85 countries that had at least 1,000 #MeToo tweets." (CBS News) Social media gave people with internet access the power to make a shift in society’s attitude towards sexual harassment like never before.

Although most of the people think that the Me Too campaign is a really good thing, others believe there is a negative side to it. For example, some men expressed their concern thinking that this campaign has gone out of control accusing some women of exaggerating their personal stories and using the hashtag #metoo easily. They added that this campaign has annoyed a number of people by generalizing the topic of harassment too much. They attacked the campaign because they thought that it spoils the reputation of innocent men.

The article "Twitter's battle with harassing, abusive tweets and the #MeToo onslaught" published in The Economic Times explains how Twitter had to change its policies because of the Me Too campaign. They accused the campaign of posting insulting tweets propagated by twitter trolls. Twitter enlisted new policies and promised to immediately delete accounts that post fake content. In addition, Twitter momentarily suspended actress Rose McGowan's account because she allegedly ruined the names of her colleagues. Due to such problems, the campaign was hugely affected. This is an excellent example of how quickly social media can get out of hand even for companies like Twitter and causing a lot of pain to innocent people along the way.

Analyzing online forums

The online forums of this campaign functioned as platforms where people can discuss the Me Too campaign in general as well as talk about their personal experiences related to the topic. On online forums users can post anonymously without revealing their true identity. This gives them the opportunity to talk more freely and comment on other experiences. One of the main benefits of this movement is that women could finally speak about sexual harassment for the first time in their lives and receive peer support.

Because online forums are informal platforms, users took this opportunity to voice their negative thoughts about the topic. For example, on Politics, users referred to the movement as a witchhunt. The Me Too campaign made victims of sexual harassment speak out, but, at the same time, it gave an opportunity for people who are against the campaign to express their opinions as well. The forums made campaign supporters and haters discuss the topic in one place which helped drawing more attention to the campaign that resulted in spreading it widely. Unlike twitter, the online forums voiced the struggles of ordinary women, not only celebrities and influencers, which helped the campaign gain more supporters.

On the online forum Reddit, users can hide their identities behind fake usernames. The conversation about the Me Too -campaign therefore was predictably very polarized. The forum in question works in a particular way that a topic gets 'votes' and the more 'votes' a topic or comment gets, the more visible it is on the webpage. One popular view on the forum was about a particular user who presented a strong argument against individuals participating in the Me Too campaign, accusing them of being attention seekers. Nevertheless, Reddit provides a multitude of counterarguments that alternate in popularity depending on the general prevailing opinion. However, it seems that negative views about the Me Too campaign attract lots of attention on Reddit. It is worth mentioning that harassment on the website is forbidden and the forum moderators closely watch the conversations. Yet, some disputes occur every now and then. The easiness of creating a Reddit account gives individuals a way of expressing their opinions openly, even the inappropriate ones. Censoring those opinions does not always happen quickly, and as a result, the atmosphere on the forum can get quite vitriolic.

How the campaign and the users interacted with each other

The first and the most important platform used in this campaign was Twitter. It all started with celebrities who wanted to raise awareness of sexual harassment and encouraged their followers to comment “Me Too” in their tweets. Suddenly women around the world started to write their own posts with the hashtag #metoo on other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and even on YouTube. This huge wave of posts and comments raised a lot of discussion about the issue, also outside social media.

The campaign made it also to TV-programs and news, since a lot of celebrities and women wanted to share their stories about their experiences of sexual harassment. Many cases were brought to the public eye, even after many years of silence. Yet the main point is that soon after Alyssa Milano shared her "first remarkable" post about the campaign, the words “Me Too” were on everyone’s lips. The campaign is still going strong in 2018.

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