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.