In the past few months Joseph Kony and Invisible Children have become household names in the United States and worldwide. This is due almost exclusively to the advent of “social network activism” or, in other words, copying and pasting a link of one’s choosing to a Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr page.
In the case of the infamous Kony 2012 Youtube video, this social media phenomenon has generated over 87 million views and has been the buzzword on Facebook for quite some time.
Throughout all of this, two clear camps have been created: those who believe the Kony 2012 video consists of a fundamental aspect of activism, awareness, and those who believe that watching a 30-minute mini documentary and hitting “like” on Facebook does not constitute actual activism.
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Inherent to this argument is technology’s tenuous placement in our society. Although we have grown accustomed as a generation and culture to be constantly connected via social networks, we continue to maintain the belief that this technology has only one function, to promote self-centeredness and narcissism.
However, we have failed to adequately analyze the ways in which technology can be used in activism. The often-cited Arab Spring serves as a prime example of the possibility of technology in generating and maintaining a political or social movement. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter provided spaces for activists and revolutionaries to communicate and publicize their issues and causes.
The Kony 2012 video, perhaps a dubious first attempt at this form of social activism, has provided fodder for a much larger discussion, one that goes beyond Invisible Children, Uganda, and child soldiers (topics that each deserve their own spaces for discussion). In the wake of the video’s popularity it has shown us, in the United States, the possibility of technology in social activism.
Like all pioneering work, this attempt is ripe with controversy and has suffered its own pitfalls. However, without the awareness brought about by the video and subsequent responses to it, we would not be provided a place for this type of discussion.
Now that we have established the awareness that the Kony 2012 video sought, the next step may have an impact on how we continue to use technology, both in our personal lives and in connection with our political activities.