Over the last 24 hours my entire social media news feed has been flooded with #KONY2012 posts, tweets, photos, and videos. This campaign was started by the organization Invisible Children in hopes of bringing Joseph Kony to justice. Joseph Kony is the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group that is engaged in a violence in Uganda that involves kidnapping children and forcing them to become soldiers and sex slaves. There is no doubt in my mind that Kony is an evil man who needs to be stopped but I decided to do some research before I jumped on board.
After reading some interesting articles I learned that Kony was no longer in Uganda and is close to being defeated. I also learned some alarming information about that Invisible Children organization and its practices. Without getting into a debate about who’s right and who’s wrong, I want to discuss the idea of social media activism and its true power.
The Kony2012 campaign has proven how quickly something can spread through social media and how willing people are to show support by sharing the story on social media. My question of this is how genuine people’s concern are. Do they care enough to re-post but not to donate? Do they care enough to donate but not to research the true facts? I personally believe social media activism, not matter how good the intentions are, is unfortunately just hype. Of course this is not true for everyone but I think a lot of people participate in social media activism for them themselves. They want to convince themselves that they are a good person because they feel strongly about a cause and prove to their friends of the same. What says I am a good person more than a retweet?
Should brands get involved?
Brands need to be extremely careful when choosing to jump on a social media activism bandwagon. It is not secret that affiliating yourself with a good cause can score major points but when do you know its a good idea? You can’t attach yourself to every social media activism fad. I’ve seen some celebrities post and tweet about Kony2012 without appearing to know the entire facts. This can be harmful when you do this without proper research. In the case of the Kony2012 campaign, supporting them can be viewed as supporting a questionable nonprofit with a bad reputation amongst charitable organizations. What’s even more harmful is the amount of social reach these brands and figures have. By supporting a potentially bad organization you are influencing your followers to do the same. The same influence could be used to promote more worthy causes.
Just to be clear, I think all activism is positive because it at the very least creates awareness. I just fear that a lot of times people waste their time, money, and influence on hype rather than a cause.