Daily Egyptian

Americans undermine the power of social media

By Lauren Leone

Video of Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony goes viral, but what does it accomplish?

The following is a staff column and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily Egyptian:

Americans are insincere.


One minute, we’re tweeting about who should win this season of “The Voice,” and in the next minute, we’re sharing a video about one of the world’s worst war criminals, Joseph Kony, via Facebook.

Or rather, people were watching the over-simplified documentary about Joseph Kony, the man responsible for abducting thousands of children and forcing them to be sex slaves or soldiers.

In early March, a 30-minute documentary was released to draw attention to Kony and to pressure the U.S. government into ensuring his capture by December 31. After receiving more than 100 million views in less than one week, the video has become the fastest spreading viral video of all time — beating out Susan Boyle’s “I Dreamed a Dream.”

Americans should be proud to have taken part in such an accomplishment.

Less than a month later, the video was no longer the hottest trend on Twitter.

Was everyone simply bored one night during a commericial break and decided to jump online?

According to Trendistic, a site that shows how Twitter trends fluctuate in the form of a line graph, the hashtag term #stopkony peaked March 7 at midnight. The hashtag experienced a sharp drop the following day — but not before millions of Americans expressed how upset they were when they found out about Kony. Some were hearing of this man for the first time.

The trend fluctuated for a few more days and then dwindled off. Now that the commericial break is over, Americans are once again onto the next hottest trend.

It’s astonishing how something as sobering and substantial as the situation in Africa can exit so many hearts as quickly as it entered.

During an interview with National Public Radio on March 8, Michael Wilkerson, a freelance journalist who reports and lives in Uganda, said the one of the video’s goals was to “keep pressure on the United States government to keep up its military assistance to the Ugandan military, which is hunting Kony in the Central African Republic, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and southern Sudan.” The video was created by Invisible Children, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about Kony’s militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The goal of making Kony known worldwide was also certainly met, but the man responsible for cutting off limbs of his victims is still at large.

While the Kony video is no longer on everyone’s mind, the video did accomplish some things. According to a March 21 Huffington Post article,  a bipartisan group of 34 senators introduced a resolution that condemns Kony and his group for their acts. The resolution also  supports the efforts being made in Uganda to stop Kony.

A sequel to “Kony 2012” is set to premiere later this week. There’s no telling how much attention the  second video will receive.

While the first documentary was created with good intentions, the question of whether social media is doing as much harm as good remains unanswered. It’s a prime example of how this generation thinks it’s acceptable to react in 140 characters or less to something as serious as this.


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