The Kony 2012 Effect

It’s been two years since the Kony 2012 video went viral, and after shooting star-like rise to fame and subsequent critical analysis and fall, the Invisible Children movement is more or less, well, Invisible. The video was a documentary made by three college age students and highlighted the child soldiers in Uganda and the “night walkers”, Ugandan children who would walk into local cities to sleep safely at night in order to avoid becoming child soldiers.
The video is perceived as a call to action- donate to their organization, and you can help stop Joseph Kony and free children soldiers. Just as quickly as everyone began posting the video on Facebook, Twitter, and social media, critics began slamming the video as inaccurate representation of the real-time situation on the ground in Uganda. They claimed that Kony hadn’t been seen for years and the short film was just that, a film. While the organization Invisible Children did (and continues to) have good intentions of helping children in Uganda, their lack of transparency created controversy and confusion among young people about how to do good in the world, and who to believe.
The trend of using social media to promote development is a dangerous one, as proven by the Kony campaign. It can be instantaneously effective and reach a huge audience. However, the population reached can often be uninformed and easily hooked into a cause. The topic of cyber security this week reminded me of the Kony campaign, and how simple it is for something- like a short video- to spread so quickly on the internet. It’s different from a virus or cyber attack, but can be damaging to the developing world all the same.


2 responses to “The Kony 2012 Effect

  • rgoode2

    You’re so right, and sometimes its really hard to tell whats really going on because web-based media is often very biased, based on who is providing the information. It makes me think of how you always see “missing person” flyers posted on facebook and tumblr, and I always used to immediately want to help spread the word, make sure as many people know about the missing person as possible, without thinking about who posted the information and whether or not it comes from a credible source with good intentions. Then I saw this broadcast on the news about how one such posting led to an abusive father finding his wife and kids, who were supposedly in some sort of witness protection program. He posted their pictures on the internet saying, “please help find my wife and kids” and everyone posted it and shared until someone said, “hey, i saw them at the grocery store, they’re in my town” and he found them. I don’t know what happened after that but it really made me think twice about how I interpret what I see on the web.

  • Jillian Waller

    I think you hit the nail on the head in acknowledging that social media can be a blessing and a curse for causes like this one. Awareness and genuine concern can spread like wildfire across countless networks and really bring a spotlight to the issue. However, one of the reasons it does is because people are very quick to say they’re in support of something and can easily be rallied, even though they’re not entirely sure what they’re supporting. And then, upon further researchers, supporters feel like they’ve been tricked or cheated when really they just hopped on the bandwagon.

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