#hometovote is where the heart is

Marriage referendum
Irish voters returning from abroad to cast their vote have been using social media to share their journey. Image: Naomi O'Leary/Twitter

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22 May 2015 | 0

Niall Kitson portraitAs I write this the Web app Reverb is reporting that about 100 tweets per minute are being posted using the hashtag #hometovote. How remarkable that a referendum in a small country could have such an impact on the twittersphere that it becomes a global trending topic.

I normally don’t report ‘social media reacts to’ stories. They’re facile, a substitute for real reporting and, worse, an excuse for tech websites to run non-tech stories with clickbait headlines. But this article isn’t about social media reactions, and you won’t believe why.

Actually it is, and you probably will. But there is something worth noting about this political campaign over others I’ve seen played out on the Interwebz.

What sets #hometovote apart from the typical 24-hour tweet storm, bulletin board whingefest or meme is not that it is a call to action, but a description of what is already happening. It has a different dynamic to Kony 2012’s slacktivist campaigning against an African warlord and Joss Whedon’s warning of Mitt Romney’s secret zombie agenda in the same year’s US presidential election. Nor is #hometovote the product of a patronising 90s-style ‘rock the vote’ campaign. It doesn’t have a catchy tune or a viral video to call its own. It doesn’t have a mascot or masked man. No one should class #hometovote as anything other than evidence of how much young people care about a referendum that, if passed, would make Ireland the first country in the world to establish marriage equality marriage through the ballot box instead of the courts. People’s minds are already made up, this is the stuff of narrative, not activism.

Will it be worth the effort? Assuming the majority of travellers vote in favour (as my timeline indicates) and win the day, yes. If the referendum fails, it’s hard to see a groundswell repeated.

#hometovote is the story of a once-in-a-generation choice in which the use of technology extends no further than a statement of ‘this happened’ played out in messages 140 characters long, in still images, in thumbs up icons. It won’t change the way anyone voted today, but you have to celebrate the determination of these risen people.

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