In October, 2017, amid the Harvey Weinstein scandal, actress Alyssa Milano urged victims of sexual abuse to speak out, popularizing the MeToo hashtag.
Although the “MeToo” social media campaign predates Milano’s tweets, the famous actress exposed the masses to it for the first time. The snowball has not stopped rolling since, and the social media movement has evolved into a full-blown phenomenon.
How and why did this happen? Pew Research Center answers that, and other question in a new study examining and dissecting the viral effect of the MeToo hashtag, and therefore the movement of the same name.
From the date of Alyssa Milano’s first tweet, October 15, 2017, to September 30, 2018, the hashtag has been used more than 19 million times on Twitter alone, according to Pew. Meaning, the hashtag has been used 55,319 per day, on average.
Most tweets featuring the hashtag included at least one of the following three topics: personal stories, celebrities, politics. Fifteen percent of tweets mention celebrity sexual harassment scandals, 14 percent relate to personal sexual harassment stories, and 7 percent refer to politics, or mention specific politicians.
A majority of tweets — 71 percent of them — with the MeToo hashtag have been in English, 7 percent were written in Afrikaans, 4 percent in Somali, and 3 percent in Spanish.
Proving how viral MeToo has gone is the fact that 65 percent of American adults, from various demographics, who use social networking platforms say to have seen content related to the hashtag.
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) October 21, 2018
Transcending conventional social media phenomena, the MeToo hashtag has become a sweeping social movement, reaching members of the U.S. Congress. According to Pew, 44 percent of Congress members have mentioned sexual misconduct on their official social media pages. As one would expect, female lawmakers were far more likely to refer to MeToo than their male colleagues.
But how effective has MeToo been in raising awareness and combating sexual harassment? According to the American Psychological Association (APA) not too effective, at least when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.
“Our survey — as well as anecdotal reports — shows that too few employers are making comprehensive efforts that can have significant impact. Avoiding the issue is bad for employee well-being and business, but so, too, is a narrow, compliance-based approach,” APA’s David W. Ballard explained.
“We know from psychological science that relying solely on mandated training designed primarily to limit the organization’s legal liability is unlikely to be effective,” he concluded.
The MeToo movement has, however, helped sexual abuse survivors seek support. From October to December of 2017, while the movement was still in its infancy, calls to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network rose by 23 percent compared with the same period a year earlier, according to BBC.