So much internet, so little time. Good on the Internet is our running attempt to highlight things that, in contrast to most of the toxic sludge found online, might actually make you smile.
On Friday, Irish citizens are voting in a referendum on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the country’s constitution, the rule that makes abortion illegal in all but a few exceptions. Ireland does not allow voting by absentee ballot, so some Irish citizens living abroad chose to make the trip home to cast their ballots. A hashtag has emerged for them to document this journey on social media, #HomeToVote, and if you want to see an example of something that’s good on the internet this week, you’ll do no better than a scroll through it. If you care to look, you’ll find a casual display of all the best things about human nature and democracy at work, no biggie or anything.
Taking in #HomeToVote is like watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, or any number of road trip comedies, except instead of hijinks, you get the inspiration of watching people fight for their political beliefs as they traverse entire continents to participate in a potentially historic vote and try to make the world a better place. Most, though not all, of the #HomeToVote posts are coming from people who are voting in favor of repealing the amendment and vastly expanding the reproductive rights of the women of Ireland, where, due to its strong history of Catholicism, abortion laws are among the most restrictive in the world. Whereas social media’s default modes tend to be irony and vitriol, this detour into earnestness stand out.
Some #HomeToVote-ers are going clear across the world, even cutting vacations short, to get back to Ireland. They’re coming from near and far, by air, by sea, by highway, and even, probably, by foot. Any social media user is used to seeing travel tweets, especially around the holidays, but these give new purpose to a genre usually reserved for frittering the time away or complaining @airlines. Posts from the road also make literal the normally metaphoric adage that the journey to change can be long and arduous, making them canny political messaging.
Every year about 3,500 Irish women travel to get an abortion in nearby England, where the procedure is legal. Some #HomeToVote posters have noted this parallel and expressed the hope that their journeys will prevent future abortion-seeking women from having to leave the country to obtain the procedure.
Irish citizens and supporters have also used the hashtag to crowd-source the cost of tickets home or rides to and from the airport, a type of good deed that wouldn’t be possible without the internet.
As the New York Times noted, “[t]he journeys back to Ireland this week have mirrored a similar movement in 2015, when the country held a referendum vote to allow same-sex marriage.” In May of that year, Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage, by a large margin of 25 points. Recent polls show opinions on repealing the Eighth Amendment are more evenly split, and the vote may be a tight one. Or it may not—an exit poll cited by the Irish Times around 10 p.m. Dublin time predicted the repeal winning by a landslide, which would certainly make #HomeToVote worth the trip.