It will inevitably go down in viral video folklore and one day we will tell our kids about that time we wanted to stop Joseph Kony. Almost two months ago, on March 5, the Kony 2012 video hit the Internet to throngs of support and praise, and for 30 minutes college students actually cared about something.
The Kony 2012 campaign, which sparked a media frenzy early last month, spotlighted the horrors inflicted by Joseph Kony, leader of The Lord’s Resistance Army, a militia that is notorious for abducting children to fight as soldiers.
The video called for something different. While most causes may have asked for donations or outlandish support, this video took a different approach by asking for support through social media platforms. The immediate impact was frankly gobsmacking.
April 20, marked the long awaited day when the video’s message was slated to come to fruition. Supporters were asked to “cover the night,” placing posters and stickers all over their respective cities in an attempt to “make Kony famous.” However as USA Today reported, the turnout was quite low across most states.
Regardless of the paltry turnout, the sheer impact of the video has become a topic of much debate. Some pundits have lambasted the video for being distressingly vague and deceptively influencing. Others have criticized Jason Russell for weaving propaganda throughout the video and eliciting participation like a drill sergeant. However it’s the birth of the term “slacktivism,” which has become the major point of contention.
“Slacktivism,” is a play on activism and it builds upon the ideal that college-age kids are more likely to “retweet,” about a certain social issue, as opposed to actually doing something about it.
While the criticisms do hold some weight, (let’s face it upon seeing the video many young people who clicked “like,” were immediately teeming with pride at their newfound social aptitude) it must be noted that in today’s social climate, where so much of our lives are spent in cyberspace, “slacktivism,” can perhaps become a viable route.
Instead of solely being viewed as a lazy approach to activism it should be seen as new medium we can use to reach the masses. While we are admittedly more likely to spend time posting about the mundane musings of everyday life, the Kony 2012 video was able to strike a chord with the college population and within minutes the movement was mobilized. The video was able to encourage the youth in a manner that resonated with them and made them want to learn –and do-more. It was clearly designed with them in mind, harping on themes of togetherness and cohesion.
In the current information age, “slacktivism,” could emerge as one of the most important forms of social uprising. One doesn’t have to look far to see the role social media played in the Arab Spring last year.
Perhaps, instead of simply criticizing the modern day “slacktivist,” we should instead find a clear and discernible way to put the “social” back into social media and create a more aware society. Thereby changing “generation Y” to a generation that asks why, is engaged in public affairs, and creates change.