Why #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend Proves Twitter’s Capacity for Good

Posted on July 31, 2011

Over the weekend I spotted something trending on Twitter which hit that magical balance between being trendy and being worthwhile.

Either on purpose or by accident the hashtag #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend might well do more for the issue of domestic abuse than any print or TV ad campaign.

(So as not to get side tracked I’ll try to focus on what I think about the mechanics of this rather than my own views/moral standing on domestic abuse.)

As I’m not yet aware or the origin of this hashtag/trending topic I can’t be sure if this a campaign or entirely natural. If the origin of the trend was purposeful it communicates what organisations have been trying to get across for years: that domestic abuse is real, it does go on, and some people in the world accept it and might even be proud of it. If it’s natural, and someone genuine thought this was funny or a serious topic they believed in, then (via Twitter) they are exposed to a barrage of negative reaction from people publicly condemning such an arrogant and casual comment on the issue.

It was most interesting how cleverly this provoked opposing sides of the argument. In particular the wording; the ‘reason to’ has been successful with hashtags as they allow users to chip in and provide their own reasons. It also provides no real clarity about the intentions of the people who initially used the hashtag which raises a lot of  questions:

  • Do they have reasons?
  • Is it bait?
  • Do they want people to just say ‘there are no reasons to beat your girlfriend?
  • Will people actually publicly respond with reasons?
  • Will they be joking or will they mean them?
Questions and confusion create curiosity and clicks, and different people will click for different reasons, seeking answers to their own questions. Someone who is disgusted by the topic then has their chance to publicly denounce the trending topic, and by association denounce domestic abuse. Someone who beats their girlfriend click and see the worldwide response to domestic abuse from millions of twitter users, and hopefully might reconsider their actions.
#reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend made public a shocking and gruesome issue that thrives on privacy. Wether it was an accident or not becomes irrelevant as the trend has no real ownership or monetary value. It’s sole existence provokes much-needed dialogue and thought about the horrors of domestic abuse, it invites people to do what Twitter users do best… ‘join the conversation’.
The only disappointing aspect was when I saw people asking for Twitter to remove the trending topic. This implies that some people still crave some kind of Godly editorial ownership over the content published on Twitter. In which case all the positive effects I’ve found above would be instantly undone; and could not have been so easily achieved if Twitter was not the ‘democratic’ source of discussion and insight into the general public’s thoughts that it still (currently) is.