Turn off Facebook for 9 hours, and you could miss the start of a social revolutionby Sanaya Khisty on Mar 20, 2012 • 7:55 pm 1 Comment
Somewhere in the United States is an adorable little boy named Gavin. This small child, bright eyed and innocent, has become the face of an attempt at a more peaceful planet. Invisible Children, Inc., is a non-profit organisation that began when three self-professed “storytellers” travelled to Africa in 2003 in search of a filmic adventure. Their journey turned into what they deem a nine year battle against Africa’s longest running war.
On March 7th, many of us scanned our facebook news-feeds to see several events, postings and status updates referring to ‘Kony ’. By the end of the day, I had over 50 friends re-post the official YouTube video. The 30 minute documentary details Joseph Kony’s cause-less tyranny in Uganda since the 1980’s.
For over 20 years, Kony has been stealing children from their family homes and forcing them to become a part of his army – the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, either as a child soldier or a sex slave. The short film provides a rundown of events and action taken to end the war and rebuild Uganda. The video ultimately reverses the responsibility onto the viewer and asks for global support in making Kony infamous. It marks April 20th, 2012 as the day the world will ‘Cover the night’ by putting up posters, yard signs, stickers and an assortment of Kony paraphernalia around cities across the globe. Yet it is only now that the global community is being told this story.
So what is the difference? In 2005, the three filmmakers released a documentary entitled ‘Invisible Children: Rough Cut’, and although it reached millions, its scope was nothing in comparison to almost 500,000 views within two days of being uploaded to YouTube and 78 million more within 10 days. ‘KONY 2012’ has gone viral. Spanning across various social media, it has rivaled the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement in terms of viewer commitments.
Scrolling through the plethora of events after searching for ‘Kony’ on Facebook is truly heartwarming. Not because of the cause, but because of the reactionary response. People today want to help. By using social media networks as a tool for public education and social change, Invisible Children Inc. is doing exactly as it intended, by forcing 750 million Facebook users to ask, “Who is Kony?”. And that is just the beginning. Though many are skeptical of the longevity of public discussion, many more have tentatively committed to perpetuating the cause on April 20th. There have been numerous counter blogs and posts on sites such as reddit and tumblr, denoting the intentions of Invisible Children Inc., not to mention credible news sources investigating the issue further.
The world we live in today allows us the ability to make a change, yet the beauty of it is that it also allows us to question the people asking us to make that change. Regardless of cynicism, the name ‘Kony’ is everywhere. In the beginning of the film, the narrator states, “The next 27 minutes are an experiment”. The introduction focuses heavily on the way social media has changed our lives and our capabilities. Kony is not merely about a Ugandan warlord. It is not about a corrupt non-profit agency. It is not about having the wittiest status update on the matter. It is about a social networking revolution in which global affairs can be taken into the hands of the public.