#KONY2012: Social media used to popularize Ugandan warlord
Three days after short documentary “KONY 2012” made its Internet debut, it garnered millions of shares and likes on Facebook, hits on YouTube, ReTweets on Twitter, and posts on Tumblr.
Invisible Children’s latest campaign aims to raise support for the arrest of the leader of the Ugandan guerrilla group the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, and set a precedent for international justice. The 30-minute film has gained worldwide popularity through the means of social media.
“We have … been supporters of Invisible Children for years and it has never gotten this much buzz,” Gabi Wurtzel, events executive for Towson’s Invisible Children chapter, said. “The video has had 64 million views in three days. It has been on the cover of magazines, we have been on the news, the buzz is crazy.”
Matthew Durington, an associate professor and director of international studies for the department of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice, said the development of activism can be mapped through social media in the last decade.
“It is by far the largest social-media-based capital campaign up to this point and will undoubtedly continue to raise consciousness for many individuals,” Durington, whose focus is on media anthropology, said. “There is now the ‘KONY 2012’ drinking game, for goodness sake. These sarcastic means of dealing with serious issues mark the current digital age. I think it is a coping mechanism in some ways. It is actually a clever consciousness-raising tool.”
Though millions are raising attention through social media, some students don’t think this is enough.
“It’s brought attention to something which a lot of people have forgotten about,” freshman Justin Willstaedt said. “Unfortunately, I think a lot of people are assuming it’s doing more than it is by sharing the video. If people want to help, they need to do more than share the video some people made.”
Wurtzel said the chapter is doing more than just raising awareness through social media, though the release of this video definitely helped their ongoing efforts.
The screenings of previously released videos the chapter shows on campus usually have more than 100 attendees.
“And the Invisible Children roadies, who are the volunteers that travel around to colleges, they come and speak. And there has been a Ugandan advocate every single year for the past four years,” Wurtzel said.
Wurtzel and the club’s Vice President Janet Krater said they’re excited the film is getting so much recognition.
“Before other people kind of knew about it, but now that everyone in America knows about it, I feel like that is one of his [Kony’s] biggest fears,” Krater said. “It’s like, ‘People know what I am doing and now they are actually going to try and do something about it.’ We can’t lose that steam. Right now, this week, it is crazy, but in June we still need the same emphasis on having him surrender or capturing him.”
Sophomore Travee Smith said the hype will not last for months at a time.
“I feel like it’s gotten big, but I feel like it gets big around certain times during the year,” she said. “I’ve been hearing about this since 10th grade, but it hasn’t been a continuing thing, and that’s what bothers me. Nobody really cares. They just care about it at that moment.”
Durington said though media saturation is a real phenomenon, it can be seen as something that leads people to think someone else is taking care of it.
“But it would be ignorant to state that social media has not influenced conversations,” he said. “Folks actually know what is going on in a way they never did before.”
- – Caryn Altman and Lauren Slavin contributed to this article