As a new year begins it’s always interesting to look back at the passing year. This last year was definitely the year of social media in Iceland. Iceland has a small population of approx. 330,000 so when certain events or incidents happen they can quickly become the centre of discussion everywhere. Icelanders are also very well connected, literally, almost everyone in Iceland has the internet and uses it enthusiastically. A direct consequence of this is that social media is increasingly becoming an important venue of discussion in Icelandic culture.
2015 was also the year Twitter went mainstream in Iceland. We’d heard of it before, of course, but Icelanders were, for a while, reluctant to add another social media platform to their roster. In the end, resistance proved futile and Icelanders took Twitter by storm – there wasn’t an event in the country that didn’t get its own hashtags.
Here are some of the issues and events that ruled social media in Iceland in 2015.
Beauty Tips = A Feminist Revolution
It may sound incredible, but one of the biggest contributors to the feminism and the battle for equality in Iceland in 2015 was a Facebook group called Beauty Tips. The group was at first intended as a place where people could discuss anything beauty related for women of all ages, but in the end turned out to be so much more. The group’s size grew into unprecedented numbers, but only women were allowed. For a while Beauty Tips was a place women could ask advice on anything they were unsure about, what TV shows they should watch, if it was normal to get a rash from taking penicillin and who was hotter, Zac Efron or Justin Bieber. Gradually, women started experiencing the group as a safe, female-centric space and started to share more personal stories that resulted in a flood of women sharing their stories of violence, rape and sexual harassment. The hash tags #þöggun (#silenced) and #konurtala (#womenspeak) started from discussions in the closed group but quickly gained national attention and took over news coverage and every other form of social media.
Saving the World, One Hash Tag at a Time
Those were not the only hash tags connected with cultural revolutions. The online community also took on some serious issues such as prejudice of mental illness (#egerekkitabu) and everyday sexism (#6dagsleikinn). #égerekkitabú (#I am not taboo) was used when people shared their experience with mental illness in order to combat stigma and break down the wall of silence that surrounds sufferers of mental illness in Iceland. #6dagsleikinn (an untranslatable pun) collected stories of everyday sexism, such as toy vacuum cleaners advertised for girls, and that time a journalist suggested a female politician should stand quietly beside a male one during an interview “for decoration”.
One of the most noticeable events that started on social media was Icelandic women’s collective decision to free the nipple, and reclaim the power over their own bodies. In the early months of the year a young college student in Iceland, Adda Smáradóttir, posted a photo of herself wearing clothing that revealed her nipples. She did so to criticize the sexualisation of female nipples evident in social media regulations where posting photos of female nipples is forbidden. Adda received a lot of support but also some ridicule from some schoolmates. This led to thousands of women (and men) posting photos of themselves topless or in ,,nipple revealing” clothing, marching topless down the main shopping street and leaving their bikini tops at home before going swimming. Free The Nipple became the fight against the sexualization of women and against revenge porn.
Early in December, all eyes were on a young man named Almar Atlason, a 23 year old art student at the Icelandic Art Academy. As part of a school project, Almar decided to spend a week naked in a transparent box. He didn’t take anything with him into the box, and relied on his audience to bring him things he needed, such as food and water. The whole thing was broadcast live on Youtube and for a whole week he became the nation’s favourite pastime project, with the Internet community constantly watching his every move on the screen. The project was discussed during coffee breaks throughout the country, #nakinníkassa (naked in a box) ruled Twitter and reputable news medias, reported as Almar took care of every human need. Every. Single. One.