Just yesterday, I noticed a “#KONY2012” sign in the window of a local business. Even if you haven’t seen the video, or you’ve been disconnected from the internet and television lately, you have more than likely seen the name or heard the phrase “#KONY2012”.
Having had several clients contact me to ask my view of the video and whether it would be appropriate to support within a workplace, I had taken the time to watch the video and had my team do quite a bit of reading up on #KONY2012.
Out of devilish curiosity, pretending I was clueless, I asked the store’s clerk what they knew of #KONY2012 and why the sign was there.
The clerk then proceeded to tell me: “Oh my manager put that sign up. It’s this thing on Facebook and Twitter, like this YouTube video. It’s about this guy, Joseph Kony (The bold represents how they said his name with distinction as to be sure that is what I remember). He’s from Africa, and he kidnaps kids and makes them kill their parents and do all this awful stuff. And these guys who made the video want Obama to send troops to Africa to stop him or something like that.”
“Have you watched the video?” I asked.
“I watched part of it,” the clerk replied, “but it was too sad once they started showing pictures of what happened to the kids. If I want to see stuff like that, I’ll watch a real movie.”
I then politely thanked them for filling me in, and that I would have to go home and watch the video.
#KONY2012 is a 30-minute documentary film, produced by the organization Invisible Children Inc. The film depicts the experiences of a group of film-making activists, who happen upon Jacob, a 12 year old Ugandan Boy. At the time, Jacob was fleeing the Lord's Resistance Army (L.R.A.), lead by Joseph Kony.
Jacob shared his experiences of witnessing his brother’s execution. With no hesitation he explained the details of the situations that he and countless others had to endure in order to survive. Any human being cannot deny the emotional impact that comes from hearing this young man’s life, first hand.
The film goes on to describe Invisible Children Inc.’s plan to “#StopKony”, which boils down to making as many people aware of his crimes and encouraging as many people as possible to speak out. Thus, the more people that speak out, the more likely it will be that North American law makers will maintain their action against Joseph Kony and the LRA. Invisible Children Inc. has a very distinctive and plausibly actionable request of the public: “Make Joseph Kony famous.“
The short film was released on YouTube, and launched into the social media universe less than a month ago. Its view count has reached over 80 million on YouTube alone. If you know nothing about the situation in Uganda, and the current status of the LRA, the film is enlightening, empowering, horrifying, dramatic, and utilizes sincere emotion. Bottom line, it is very well made film in regards to promoting social justice with a built-in understanding of its marketing and viral capabilities.
So with many things that muster the attention of millions, comes the questions of the “who/what/why/how’d they do it?”
As the video went viral, word began to swiftly spread about the various views of Invisible Children Inc., their financial practices, their political allies and their polarization of the situation in Uganda that is rooted at the film’s core. The Ugandan government has even released a counter video to #KONY2012.
I’ll leave it to you to decide if you trust Invisible Children Inc and support the cause of #KONY2012.
What I do ask of you is this: do your research. No one can do this research for you, in its entirety. Social media is a juggernaut of content creation and amplification. With its direct ability to tap into human instinct and emotion, we are left with extreme potentials to empower, as well as to mislead.
Any number of false celebrity death notices passed around Twitter indicates that headlines travel first, and facts of the matter travel second. When it comes to information that specifically interplays with our emotions – and frequently this is diversity-driven content – we are generally led to react. If we are happy, we smile and we laugh. If we are sad, we pout and we cry. If we feel empowered, we step up and we speak out.
With a film so touching, so sensitively driven as #Kony2012, it really wasn’t surprising to see it in the Facebook timelines of countless friends and colleagues within its first week. Then all of the sudden, you slowly watched, as many people began to remove the video one by one from their feeds, and delete any praise they may have offered.
It’s within that time frame from the drop to the back pedal, where severe damage from misinformation can be done. Damage that includes the extension of false or dulled facts; false education in my mind is criminal. The damage that comes from potentially offending those with close ties to the topic at hand is very powerful and very real.
We must – as parents, educators, leaders, employers, colleagues and friends – highlight the importance of digging a little deeper before we press send. Similar to thinking twice before posting your own personal ideology via the twitter-verse, what you post carries a far greater impact than what I believe our society has even begun to comprehend.
Watching this play out, one thing is crystal clear: People, by the masses, are finding their voice. Perhaps it’s the anonymous aspect of the internet, and not having to say things while looking into one another’s eyes. But humanity seems to want to speak out, and humanity has found its microphone: social media.
Social media has created a world of passive activists. A passive activist is a person that will gladly speak up for a cause they believe in, but at their convenience. Life doesn’t leave everyone the opportunity to go to rallies, travel to Washington or Ottawa to march, or write a brilliant thesis dedicated to social justice. However, social media has offered us the accessible opportunity “to march” from our iPads, while still in our PJs, via all the very simple acts of sharing, re-tweeting, +1’ing, and now pinning.
Leading people to awareness is wonderful. The more people who begin to care about the situations and lives of others, the more blissful our planet can remain and further become. We definitely can include activism more actively in our everyday lives now thanks to social media, and I stand by that as being a very good thing. So long as it’s rooted in truth, dignity and complete understanding.
When something like #KONY2012 hits the social web and we feel emotional, it’s easy to press that “share” button. It’s so easy to re-tweet with as many hash tags as possible to feel as if you are doing your part and spreading the word.
“This made me feel like a good person. I want others to feel this way. Why shouldn’t I send this to people to make them feel like good people too?”
While fast action is certainly a necessity at times, as social media users we should try to fully understand the situations before we engage in them. Even by just re-sharing a video, you are making a large statement about yourself: “I believe in this.” Unless you state them, there are no “qualifiers”. When you post the #KONY2012 video, and make no reference to your feelings about its makers or their critics, you are stating that you support the cause and its organizational creators.
This is 100% acceptable if you have taken the time to define for yourself a clear understanding of the video, the content, and its origins.
Parting HR Thought:
If you take the time to post any political or socially significant signage on your business property inform your employees in full detail as to what they and your organization are now representing.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”