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March 8, 2012

Kony2012 and the 'Social Media Activism' Boom

I'm happy that people are becoming aware of an issue. It might be a starting point, but before 'starting' anything, be critical, get the facts, make a thoughtful educated decision, and then do more than share a video that's gone viral, do more than put up posters or tell your friends, just do more. Explore more issues, and make sure that you're paying attention to what's happening in Canada, in our own country, and across the world as well, not just when its 'trending' but every day, because when the KONY2012 videos stop being posted it doesn't mean the situation is over, or the cause no longer worth while, it just means that people have gotten bored.

Like I said, I'm all up for people getting aware, getting involved, getting passionate, and wanting to make a difference. I would never shame someone for wanting to start, everyone has their own starting points after all, and I've been involved with some programs, and donated money to some agencies, that I would chose not to given the information and experience I have now. However sometimes 'starting' something without knowing all the facts can be extremely detrimental. I don't have a better answer, I don't have a solution. But just because I don't, doesn't mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it's something else or something better. Something isn't always better than nothing. Sometimes it's worse.

I've debated the idea of 'social media activism' the importance of raising awareness and what amazing and popularized tools (twitter, tumblr, facebook, youtube, THE INTERNET) my generation has at our fingertips to be connected across the world instantly and how we typically use these amazing, and powerful tools to gossip about the Kardashian's, complain about having to work late, or follow the newest trends, and don't even come close to tapping into its full potential as a tool that can quite possibly change the world as we know it.

My friend Rayannah Kroeker summed up my feelings pretty well when she posted her comments on Facebook, the very place that this video http://vimeo.com/37119711 has exploded over the last two days, going viral and eliciting many different responses from my varied Facebook friends.

"I have never seen my newsfeed so covered with a social justice issue before. People care. People are learning about the LRA. And I know that those who are posting about KONY are doing it with good intentions. And those intentions give me hope.

I would love to feel that this campaign will lead to a Uganda where every person young or old can find opportunity, or better yet, create it.... I'd love to feel that this is going to drive real and lasting change.

But I don't.

Instead, I feel that this campaign is offering a simple feel-good solution to an extremely complicated and deep-rooted conflict. I am afraid that this solution may do more harm than good. I worry that people sitting at home on their computers have a greater say in what the solution should be than those who live in Uganda. I worry that the voices are being wrongly weighted. I worry that this sort of simple feel-good approach will dominate the way in which people participate in social justice.

I feel that this campaign is distracting. Distracting from the real challenges and progress going on in Uganda today. Distracting from other current atrocities whose propaganda machine is not so well oiled.

I feel this campaign is wasteful. From the mass production of propaganda materials which on April 21st will litter the streets of North-America, to the money of Invisible Children's revenue which is spent on its staff's salaries and travel expenses.

I feel. I feel. I feel. This campaign focuses on the way we feel and react to the horrific information presented to us in the film rather than truly trying to empathize with, represent and understand those enduring these horrors in Norther Uganda.

I feel that this campaign repeatedly shows us the face of an adorable five year old american boy and gives us only one Ugandan voice - a uni-dimensional victim.

I am glad people are being moved by the story of someone born half a world away. But does that story have to be sensationally exaggerated for us to pay attention? Do the facts have to be skewed? Does it have to be packaged with easy solutions? Does it have to come in HD? Does it have to make us feel as though we made a massive difference with nothing but the click of a button? Does it have to offer us a homogenous Africa(is not a country)? Does it have to be in storybook format with bad guys, heros and victims?"

I have no doubt that the people sharing this video, getting excited about social justice and making change have their hearts in the right place. It might be the first time that these people have been made aware of the atrocities going on in the world, and it is great that a dialogue has begun and that people are talking about it...but its not good enough. That's not the pessimist in me speaking, that's the realist. Its simply not enough to share a viral video, put up posters, donate your profile picture, or twitter feed.

Be critical, act with perseverance, realize that easy answers aren't always the best (if they were, we would solve a lot more global issues), be motivated, think outside and whatever you do.....ALWAYS learn two (both, all, as many as you can) sides of the story, it will help you make educated decisions, come up with more complete and holistic suggestions of solutions, act with innovation and think outside of the box.

I don't have the answers. I've made that clear, and I don't claim to have them. What I do have is questions, roughly a million of them, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. A hope that I'll be able to live in a place, in a world where people are aware and care about each other in their own countries and across the world. Where we use technology to connect the world and make positive social change rather than find out whose dating who in Hollywood. Where apathy is a thing of the past and where critical thought is not only encouraged but expected.

Two of my cents,
Delaney C.