The Remixability of Hashtags

Disclaimer: I know this article touches on some possibly triggering topics (identity-based memes). I'm primarily trying to explore it from a meta/positivist POV, rather than a normative POV. I'm always open for feedback, but please assume my good intentions! :)

As I've written about before, we should consider hashtag-based memes (#MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, #MAGA, #BUIDL, #DeFi, etc.) to be (digitally-native) institutions in and of themselves (because they coordinate and motivate large numbers of people!).

Info-Based Hashtags are Easy To Remix

A crucial property of hashtags is that they are almost entirely information-based, which makes them much cheaper to remix. e.g. "Remixing" a nation-state is difficult because it requires a ton of capital, governance, violence, and land. On the other hand, remixing a hashtag is easy—just change a couple characters. Here are some examples of remixing hashtags:

  • #HODL --> #BUIDL
  • #MeToo --> #WeToo
  • #BlackLivesMatter --> #NativeLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter

Identity-Based Remixing

I want to concentrate on the #BLM example because it highlights how certain hashtags are more easily remixable than others. Given the form #_____LivesMatter, we can easily see how one can insert other identities into the __blank__ to make a new hashtag. I call this "identity-based" remixing (in contrast to "rhyme-based" remixing of #WeToo, or "character-based" remixing of #BUIDL).

"Weaponization" as Negative Remixing

All remixing is seen as positive/negative by certain groups. For the progressive left, #NativeLivesMatter is an "ok" remix, while #BlueLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter are "not ok". (FWIW, I mostly agree with this distinction given that Native Americans are a historically marginalized group.) I like to call negative remixing "weaponization".

Effective Altruist Remixes of #BLM

From an Effective Altruist perspective, we could explore three (awkward) remixes of #BLM:

  • #AnimalLivesMatter (1T sea animals + 70B land animals factory farmed per year)
  • #PoorLivesMatter (750M people living on <$2/day)
  • #FutureLivesMatter (100B humans thus far, 8B today, trillions in the future)

Like any #___LivesMatter hashtag, all of these are possibly triggering. (They are a protest to the original #BLM protest and identity-based memes are zero-sum by definition.) In my opinion, the most controversial remix is #FutureLivesMatter. It's a powerful way to discuss existential risk (and environmentalists are starting to use it for extreme climate change). #FutureLivesMatter also gets at another set of (possibly controversial/triggering) ideas:

  • "Presentism" (as opposed to racism, sexism, etc.)
  • "Intergenerational justice" (as opposed to social justice, racial justice, etc.)

(I learned about each of these terms from Just Giving in the context of short-term incentivized governments, i.e. "presentist" governments.)

Other notes:

I wrote this article because it was upvoted on my Trello board. Vote for future content here!