Social Change and Social Media (#mindblowing)
If you’ve lived near a college campus in the last few years, the chances are good that you were familiar with the activist group Invisible Children (IC) before their Twitter explosion on March 6. Last week, IC debuted a video on YouTube and promoted it with a Twitter hashtag, #stopkony. For those of you who haven’t heard yet, IC is trying to “make Kony famous”. Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group that once operated in Uganda. Kony is known for his brutal tactics, including the use of child soldiers. You can read more about him here.
This is the year of exploding social media campaigns. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was stopped in its tracks after an online campaign to kill it. Planned Parenthood took to Twitter and Facebook, creating activists in a matter of hours and soundly humiliating Komen for the Cure. IC was trending worldwide for hours; the video had over seven million views in two days. Within a week, it was pushing 80 million. It has been one of the top stories in all the major news networks.
How did this campaign explode, exactly? The group began by recruiting celebrities. Rihanna has 14.5 million followers, Taylor Swift has 11.5 million, and Zooey Deschannel (with a mere 1.7 followers) joined the cause. By tweeting #stopkony, and including a link to the video, celebrities helped create an avalanche of tweets.
It is trite to say, yet again, how quickly the world has changed. But let’s take a moment to look at how we become a part of a movement today. 20 years ago, grassroots campaigning meant hosting a meeting at your home, putting up signs, or going door to door. The modern yard sign is a status update or a tweet. We host forums on our blogs, and we spread the word about causes that matter to us through social media. The speed of modern movements is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. The social media platform makes it possible for individuals to shine an ever-expanding light in dark places across the globe.
No campaign is complete without backlash. If you’d like to learn more about Invisible Children, Inc., this Washington Post article is very helpful (and contains other great links), as is this article from The Independent, written by a Ugandan. Finally, this link to a blog called “Visible Children” has been tweeted a lot in response to #stopkony.
- Mary Nevaire Marsh