Lack of Leadership and Tangible Change: An Affirmative View

The #Kony2012 campaign was released by Invisible Children in early March of 2012. #Kony2012 was a strategically thought out operation using various forms of promotions and persuasive actions. The campaign used a combination of many visuals such as images, logos, text, and videos in attempt to rewrite present-day strategies for engendering activism through social media, also known as, clicktivism. This post looks at two different articles that support our claim that clicktivism is only the beginning and more needs to be done for real change to occur.

While there were cons of #Kony2012, there were some pros that highlighted the initial benefits clicktivism can have on a campaign. An article on nj.com, “Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign has pros, but also cons” by Carly Rothman, discusses some of these pros. Rothman went into detail about the key goals of KONY2012 being that it was an operation to put pressure on the American government to keep a small U.S. military presence on the ground Uganda to advise local leaders. The campaign was centered on a social media strategy built upon a viral video “that lays out the programs roots and visions”. This is a prime example exemplifying the benefits that social networking can bring to a situation. Within days of this video being launched it received nearly ten million views and celebrity endorsements from people like Justin Bieber and Oprah. The #Kony2012 campaign successfully showed the potential benefits clicktivism can have on an issue. The positive of all of this is the simple fact that spreading ideas is a good way to initiate the conversation of change but not necessarily create a tangible change itself.

Cons that have been made up over #Kony2012 include their corporate structure, their investment in the Ugandan army and their sanguinary mission to bring Joseph Kony to justice. #Kony2012’s investment in the Ugandan army was very troublesome. The accounts that they made that took over YouTube and Twitter were very troublesome as well. They created a culture of looting, exploitation and rape occurring on the frontlines of the army’s activities, both in their expeditionary work in the Central African Republic and their supposed protective work of the internally displaced refugee camps in Northern Uganda (Currie). This was discussed in an article on uniter.ca titled, “The Pros and Cons of KONY 2012” by Steve Currie in 2012. The issue in organizational structure this article discussed tends to be the demise of many clicktivism campaigns. There is no hierarchy of power in the social media world which is one major reason these campaigns don’t lead into tangible change in the world. The lack of hierarchical power prevents tangible change because there is no clear organization and relentless push for change. The combination of these two articles depicted how social media can create a rise in awareness of an issue but struggle to do anything of it rather accurately. It is possible that in the future of clicktivism we will see a rise in leadership or figure heads attached to these campaigns for it to begin supporting real activism.

Clicktivism in Youth: A Refutation

In the article titled “Kony 2012 Shows The Power Of Youth And Social Media,” author Iman Baghai explores the idea that social media in the #Kony2012 campaign helped propel the cause forward. He claims that social media drastically helped shed light on the situation and bring awareness to the cause. Baghai also speaks to the idea that because this movement has been so large on social media, youth have been greatly involved. Youth involvement when it comes to political issues in the United States has historically been low. This movement occurred almost solely on social media which allowed it to reach the younger audience, causing greater involvement for them. This campaign’s use of clicktivism brought attention to the issue in a dramatic way and incorporated youth involvement, but did it actually create a change?

#Kony2012 has reinforced unhelpful narratives about child soldiers, and simplified an extremely complex conflict into something easily understandable for the youth of America. But did change actually ensue due to this rise in internet activism? While clicktivism can help bring attention to issues, it doesn’t necessarily work to create real life change. We believe that even though clicktivists did assist in spreading this story rapidly it was just another example as to how false sense of change can spread. The idea of watching a video or clicking a link and signing a petition doesn’t do nearly enough to actually create change.

This movement was easy to be involved with because it was heavily promoted through social media platforms and all you had to do was show support by sharing a link or posting a status. Doing these things give people a sense of achievement and involvement in a cause. By re-tweeting a hashtag, people think they’ve helped, and move on to something else in their life feeling guilt free. Most social media campaigns like #Kony2012 demand short, emotive campaign material. In other words, if you “like” something or change your profile picture, then you are shaping your online identity in a particular way by affiliating yourself with this cause. This is something people can easily do to make themselves seem like they are truly involved in a cause when in fact they haven’t really done much of anything. Overall, while clicktivism can be good to bring attention to a cause, it doesn’t create the tangible difference. Clicktivism doesn’t nearly compare to taking hands on action in person.