‘Kony 2012’ and social media

By Samara Abramson

On Wednesday, March 7, both Facebook and Twitter were inundated with posts and re-posts of the “Kony 2012” YouTube video, which introduces Americans to the devastation that has been occurring in Uganda for the past 30 years.

Facebook

A dictator named Joseph Kony, who is listed as number one on the International Criminal Court’s “World’s Worst Criminals List,” has been abducting young children, turning girls into sex slaves and boys into soldiers, forcing them to kill their parents. The mission of this Invisible Children film is “to raise support for [Kony’s] arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” It is clear that word has gotten out about Kony, as the video was uploaded on March 5, and a mere two days later, had over 11 million views. Obviously, a lot of this campaign’s success rate has to do with society’s reliance on social networking.

The film begins with: “Right now, there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet [200] years ago.” This fact insinuates that the best way to reach out to society is through Facebook. Whether we like it or not, the way humans communicate and interact with one another is changing.

All over the world, people have been learning about Kony through social media; Nathan Mawby, of the Herald Sun, wrote an article called “Kony 2012: Film on Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony sweeps social media,” in which he writes, “In Australia #stopkony was the highest trending term on Twitter at 10 a.m.” Older generations commonly see the transformation of the media as untraditional, but “Kony 2012” represents how this eccentricity can affect the world in a positive way.

The vast spread of this film makes me wonder, what if technology like this had been present during a similarly devastating time like the Holocaust? “Kony 2012” features an image of Hitler and reminds us, “It’s hard to look back on some parts of human history, because when we heard about injustice, we cared, but we didn’t know what to do. Too often, we did nothing. But if we’re going to change that, we have to start somewhere, so we’re starting here with Joseph Kony …”

We know what to do because we were informed by a YouTube video that we probably learned about through either Facebook or Twitter. The hope is that “Kony 2012” leads to the capture and imprisonment of Kony, but if this does not happen, at least we have found a successful way to communicate to society about issues that require publicity. Of course, I hope that “Kony 2012” assists in imprisoning the Ugandan dictator.

So, what does this say about the evolution of modern journalism? As many experts will confirm, the world of journalism is constantly changing. Newspaper companies have been declining for decades. The best way to reach out to a community nowadays is through the Internet, and more specifically, through Facebook and Twitter. The impact that social networking has had on society remains positive in this particular manner, but it unfortunately creates an even greater downfall for newspaper companies. If most people found out about “Kony 2012” through Facebook or Twitter, rather than through a legitimate news source, it questions the future of companies such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.

If I am taking a break from a homework assignment or if I have a few minutes to spare before a class begins, I am more likely to check Facebook or Twitter on my iPhone rather than opening up my New York Times app. The fact is that it’s easier to tap on the Twitter icon and briefly scroll through my feed. Each tweet has to be less than 140 characters, which means that it won’t take long to read a few of them. I believe that this is the case for much of America; Facebook and Twitter have a greater precedence in our lives than do large newspaper companies. “Kony 2012” explains, “Humanity’s greatest desire is to belong and connect,” which is why we find ourselves attached to social networking websites. And because of this, most of the news we learn about is on these websites, too.

The narrator of “Kony 2012” encourages: “Start making Kony famous today …  all of these efforts will culminate on one day, April 20, when we ‘Cover the Night.’ This is the day when we will meet at sundown and blanket every street in every city until the sun comes up.” I am unsure as to whether this action will take place, but I am excited to witness participation.

“Kony 2012” discusses how in the past, political actions and decisions were made by those few individuals with the power and money to do so, but that now, with Facebook, “The people of the world see each other and can protect each other; it’s turning the system upside down and it changes everything.” It’s exhilarating to realize that a social networking site, connecting people from all over, has the ability to change the world.

What’s happening in Uganda is unsightly, but with the power of the Internet and with all the good of humankind, we can find Joseph Kony and stop him from doing any more harm to the children of the world.

Samara Abramson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]