Believe it or not, people are still buzzing about KONY 2012. The video, which has reached nearly 100 million views on YouTube, continues to ignite conversations about 1) its creator, Jason Russell, who was recently detained for a very public meltdown, 2) non-profits, like Invisible Children, and their money-raising tactics and 3) America’s “white industrial complex” (as coined by author Teju Cole) to help the helpless in Africa.
I did not really understand the hype until I spoke with one of my friends about the video. For her, the video was a bit simplified, but overall a good thing because it turned many Americans’ attention from the banality of reality television and activities in the “bubble.” It allowed, at least for a little while, an individual to see problems in a worldwide perspective—good old-fashioned BREWing.
Indeed, many contend that the video does a great service. By using social media, the video allows more and more individuals to learn about the great injustices abroad. It gets people of all ages involved in a movement aimed toward, well, helping people. It also makes Joseph Kony, the warlord in question, one of the most well-recognized names among teens and young adults who are noted as the biggest supporters of the movement. While it is great that more people are learning about injustices, there seem to be some inherent problems.
First, I’m not certain how this actually helps people. In the video, Invisible Children founder Jason Russell tries to persuade viewers that merely by changing their Facebook cover photo or plastering their community with Kony’s name, it will aid those in Africa impacted by the horrors of Kony’s reign. Yet many Ugandans have come out against the movement, citing a lack of knowledge about the issue from Invisible Children. Some, too, think it is ludicrous simply to make Kony a celebrity, something they believe will only strengthen his power.
Regardless, the greater issue to me is broad and complex: our obsession with “slacktivist” ways of pursuing change. Click an Internet advertisement, and we’ll donate a dollar to hungry children! Post a Facebook status to show your support! Buy this starter kit to help Ugandan children!
These are all cozy ways of helping people. We watch something, shed a tear, and make a couple of clicks, already satisfied of our impact. And then, problem solved. Next.
But maybe we should be getting our hands a bit dirty.
Call me highbrow, but I believe that helping people—actual people—takes a little more than an impressive social media campaign. It takes people getting off their computers, putting down this paper and thinking about daily decisions they make, how what we do affects others.
For real change to occur, it takes just a little more work.
Matt Hansen, a fourth-year student, writes The People’s Republic of Matt, a politics column in Opinions. He double majors in political science and sociology at Concordia. On Twitter: @MattHansen