A week ago, the social media world was flooded with information about KONY 2012. Literally every second post on my (and I’m sure most of your) Facebook and Twitter feeds were either links to the documentary produced by Invisible Children, or about awareness events taking place within your city. That was in the morning. By the afternoon, negative responses were emerging about the validity of the documentary’s information and potential bias.
The documentary (and social awareness movement) is based around the war-lard Joseph Kony, who for decades caused great hardship within Uganda, as leader of the LRA. The greatest point of contention is Kony’s abduction of children and their forced enrolment as child soldiers. The documentary, and the organization behind it, want to ‘make Kony famous’. They explain that if Kony and his actions become famous, world organizations will be forced to attempt to capture him and bring him to justice for his many crimes.
Now, a week later, we have seen multiple accounts from political analysts, journalists and people living and working within Uganda that dispel the accounts that the documentary makes. They have explained that the filming of the documentary began in 2003 and that it does not adequately reflect the current social and political landscape of the country, which is trying to re-establish itself following the signing of peace accords. They also explain that Kony is not in Uganda anymore, instead, he is in hiding in the Congo. Furthermore, some believe that drawing attention to Kony could have a reverse effect and actually cause more harm than good.
I, by no means, am well versed enough in the politics, social structure or culture of Uganda to give you a meaningful opinion. And that’s why I didn’t. I didn’t share the video on Facebook, I didn’t tweet about it on Twitter. I did not have time to look further into it and so, I stayed silent.
I think it’s wonderful that a moving video touched so many people around the world and that it helped to draw attention to the negative situations faced by millions of people in third world nations, like Uganda. Honestly, the attention that the video generated because of its social media presence is completely astonishing, and really shows the power of social media as an awareness tool. But, I think that it is extremely problematic to watch one 30 minute video posted on social media sites, take it at face value, and blindly support a movement without looking into it further.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to chastise half of my Facebook friends. (Note to self, don’t be surprised if you lose a bunch after posting this…) It’s wonderful to see how compassionate people can be once they are exposed to issues that lack significant attention in our country. But, I just wish that the video inspired people to look deeper into the issue, rather than just clicking a button to share it. I know that it’s important to help in any way that we can, but is clicking a button on your computer or smart phone REALLY helping? Or, are we blindly supporting a movement that is potentially misinformed and could result in devastating repercussions for a country that we don’t know enough about?
I guess what I’m trying to say, in a nutshell, is that the Kony movement has offered us a unique learning experience. Charity and social activism are wonderful things to use social media to advocate for, but we need to be careful about our information sources. If you were moved by the Kony video, don’t stop supporting the people of Uganda because Kony’s reign of terror is lessened. Research the current state of affairs; share that information with your social media network. Donate any time or money that you can to helping a non-profit; stay active. Each person has the ability to evoke positive change in the world, and the widespread support of Kony, albeit slightly misinformed, shows us just how much power we have to do it.
**All images courtesy of Google.