Hashtags as online communities with social support: A study of anti-sexism-in-science hashtag movements
In the face of many cases of sexism within the sciences, scientists have turned to Twitter with hashtags to address the issue. Popular hashtags include #distractinglySexy, #iLookLikeAnEngineer, and #girlsWithToys. In this study, we set out to investigate why people were reading and using these hashtags and what impact it had on them. We administered a survey, which contained multiple choice and free response questions, to 83 people who had read or used these hashtags. We found that the hashtags ended up serving as an ad hoc online community in which participants found a space of social support. Building an improved sense of awareness was also an important reason for and outcome of participation. We examine the role of hashtags as ad hoc online communities on Twitter and the affects that they have for participants.
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