Social Media: The definite rise and potential demise of Kony 2012

By Ryan Buffa |

They say a picture says a thousand words, and the Kony 2012 video has everyone talking.

“You have got to see this video,” my friend said to me. He was not talking about the latest Youtube video of “S*** (fill in the blank) says.” He was talking about “Kony 2012,” a film and campaign by Invisible Children that has gone viral with more than 70 million views of Youtube.

Before I could sit down and watch the video, I noticed a few of my Facebook friends posting statuses such as “I knew about Invisible Children in middle school, why is it so popular now?” It came off as if some people were viewing the virality of the video as a fad that had died out during their Warped Tour days, when Invisible Children had a tent at the music festival.

But much has changed since those of us in our 20s were rocking out in our Converse to Blink 182 and passed by the Invisible Children tent to grab a bracelet. Social media has changed the world we know. We can communicate with each other from across the globe. We can share a video at the click of a button, show it on our Facebook and Twitter, reach an audience and sometimes start a movement.

Many people have been asking, “Why now? The organization has been around for 10 years, why does everyone care all of a sudden?” The answer is reflected in the very thing you are most like logged onto right now while you are reading this: social media.

Social media has expanded and grown in the last five years. Therefore the organization made a great marketing plan using free social media sites and a cool, empowering video to grab attention on a scale nowhere near the level that they were at even a year ago.

That is the power of social media. If something is “liked,” tweeted, tagged, shared or clicked on enough, eventually a message can be spread on a global scale.

The Kony 2012 campaign has demanded attention across the social media board. Throughout the criticism and cynicism, many have questioned the non-profit organization, Invisible Children. From accusing the organization’s lack of transparency to criticism of their actual mission, the viral video has everyone talking, or at least those apart of the over 70 million views it has received.

Throughout the praise and criticism, I believe that the whole idea of the campaign is really just marketing at its best.

This is because in this age and in our generation, information is power. It is trumping money. True, those with money have the latest technology and therefore can influence what we see on TV, read in the news, etc. Except now, if a Youtube video gets over 70 million views within one week, it is news. That means out of those 70 million people, maybe there are a few who care about the video’s message. The video could be about kittens or what girls say to each other, but this time it is about stopping a man who has been forcing boys to become soldiers and girls to become sex slaves.

Part of the criticism is about how much money the organization spends on production, making videos and travel expenses. But let us take a minute to reflect on the age in which we live. It is true that a picture says a thousand words. The Kony 2012 video shows the faces of almost 30,000 children who have been abducted from their families and turned into sex slaves or forced to kill. Now if you read that in the news, would you stop to donate to an organization that’s trying to stop something like this, or maybe, try to start a movement?

As much as I would like to say yes, the truth is, no I would not. I would have thought about how horrible it is, then continued my day by hanging out with friends or doing assignments for my college classes like a privileged white female in America.

It was the film, the pictures, the audio, the narration, the music, everything, that made me want to donate, want to buy a kit (although they sold out, so I am now waiting to buy one), to further inform myself and to “blanket the night” with my friends on April 20th (if my kit does not come I will just have to make my own.) Call it falling for propaganda, a scam or any other criticism, but I say it is becoming apart of a grassroots movement, or a part of something that is bigger than me.

The organization is being smart in their campaign by using social media to make the video viral and inform the public of this grassroots movement. It is strange to think that because of the growth of social media within the last five years, a viral video has informed people about a war that has been going on for over twenty years.

We are in the “information age” because those who have access to a computer have the ticket to the “information highway,” the Internet. You get the information, you gain knowledge, and with that knowledge you take action to become part of a movement.

So why is everything “so cool” about this Kony 2012 campaign? The bracelets, video and graphic design are obviously made to appeal to the younger generation. Call it brainwashing or propaganda, or call it knowing the target audience who are vital to making a difference and grasping the government’s attention.

However, just as social media can be the rise of an organization, it can also lead to the demise. After James Russell, the co-founder and producer of the Kony 2012 video, was arrested for “public masturbation,” videos have been posted online and shown on the news of Russell running around the sidewalks of San Diego, naked and pounding his chest and the sidewalk.

According to the L.A. Times, his family said he kind of lost it there for a minute because of the criticism the video has received, dehydration and lack of sleep.

The Internet can be very accepting, but not as forgiving. Russell’s naked stroll through the neighborhood has over 1 million YouTube hits on just one of the videos that came up.

Now that the video of Russell’s naked run has become the latest news for Invisible Children, it is unfortunately distracting from the organization’s mission. They now risk of losing the supporters they recently gained. The Internet and social media can be a double-edged sword that can make you or completely destroy you.

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