Recently I posted the KONY2012 video… that was before the insanity of it going viral. Yesterday the African Union announced it will lead a mission of 5,000 to assist in process of capturing Joseph Kony. I’ve been paying attention to this issue for the past four years so I know that it could have been a coincidence that this happened so soon after the video came out. Obama for example, sent 100 American troops into Uganda to help strategize with the Ugandan military last December, before this film came out. (Although I think the actions of other Invisible Children videos helped in that process as well, but whatever.) But I have a large hunch the video and its crazy viral spread did have an influence on this decision.
So this leads me to one big criticism (I’m not addressing the other dozen criticisms here) Invisible Children has faced, but lots of other issues have faced as well. (For example, right now a lot of attention is being brought to the murder of Trayvon Martin.) This idea of “slacktivism”, sharing and discussing an unjust issue and admitting that we need to do something about it, but taking hardly any physical or tangible action towards solving that unjust issue. Social Media has made it so easy to be a “slacktivist”. In fact I’m sure this this term didn’t even existed before Social Media. (Not to say it didn’t happen.) People post the KONY2012 video and we all know that we don’t like child soldiers and we don’t like terrorist groups. But what is a 30 minute video that I watch and share on facebook going to change about it? We all feel terrible about the death of Trayvon Martin, but if I post an article about his death and write “RIP Trayvon” in the description, how is that going to justify what happened to him?
Some people are so disgusted by this trend, and blame the youth of our country for being naive, believing they are making a difference when in reality they are just sharing on facebook. But I don’t see it that way. This is the way I see it.
There are two types of people: observers/slacktivists and doers/activists. And both of these groups of people use facebook and twitter. Observers/slacktivists will always read an article, be upset by it and post it on facebook. They themselves are doing nothing to push the cause forward and get stuff done. But the beauty of social media is that the doers/activists see the posts that the observers/slactivists left. The doer reads this upsetting article and flips out, immediately tries to rally a group of people together and get something done! These are the people that will make change in our world, the doers/activists are the change makers. But the great thing about these observers/slacktivists is they are the fuel for the change maker fire. They bring the issues to the attention of doer/activist and they in turn do something about it. Observers/slacktivists are never going to do anything, regardless of whether or not they post that article on facebook. But because they do share it, if enough doers/activists see it the opportunity does arise for change to be made. Like these troops the African Union is deploying to South Sudan. I also believe that because of this attention George Zimmerman will, in time, be arrested and imprisoned for the death of Trayvon Martin. The are just two cases, there are hundreds of others.
These doers/activists are all ages. Some are older and many are young as well. People who criticism observers/slacktivists for being unproductive are much less productive themselves. Stop being cynical. If someone posts something on facebook but you know they aren’t going do do anything about it, don’t waste you time complaining that they didn’t take action, just take action yourself. Theres no harm in a slacktivist as long as we still have some activists around to make some change.
One other quick point: I also really dislike people blaming the youth for not being motivated to make change. 1. A lot of youth is motiviated to make change, which is really surprising because 2. adults and schools have done a fantastic job of making youth feel like unimportant members of society that have no control over their lives. Social Studies classes in US public schools consist of memorizing the Bill of Rights or stuff Andrew Jackson did. Civics is about memorizing the balance of powers and the elastic clause. Why would these kids think that this stuff applies to them when nobody ever tells them that they can make change unless they have awesome parents or they themselves are awesome enough to think outside the box?