I am writing to you from England. The time is 1.25am on the 21st of April, and tonight, apparently, thousands of people around the world will stay up all night to plaster cities and towns with the face of Joseph Kony, the Ugandan war criminal, raising awareness and support for his pursuit and arrest.
After the initial Invisible Children film was uploaded onto YouTube it was the biggest thing in the world for the next two days. I was relatively slow on the uptake, and was told by a friend by text of the ‘internet phenomenon’. His words, not mine. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr were flooded with images, statuses, tweets and articles reacting to the unveiling of Kony’s many crimes against humanity, and many, including myself, were appalled that they had not heard of him before.
Social networking sites were Invisible Children’s chosen method of expression. This was the fastest, most efficient and more promising way to reach a mass, worldwide audience in a short space of time, and it worked, in the short term.
I logged onto Twitter this morning and was met with a Tweet that I couldn’t quite believe.
‘Can’t believe tonight is the night everyone’s supposed to go out and put up Kony posters, the whole Kony thing has gotten old now…‘
I was shocked.
But the origin of this attitude is a very simple one to discern.
Somewhere along the line, the idea of Kony 2012 lost its meaning. It had been a bit like a game of Chinese Whispers. The video was linked to one person, who linked it to another, who linked it to another, and with each ‘link’ a Fad grew where a meaning died.
An ‘internet phenomenon’, ‘a viral masterpiece’, rather than ‘a worthy cause’.
It became fashionable to change your profile picture or, rather, unfashionable not to.
If you hadn’t ‘liked’ the Kony 2012 page on Facebook you were ‘falling behind’: my friend’s words, not my own.
I asked this friend, who seemed so passionate about the cause to begin with, whether he would be supporting the cause this evening. He replied, ‘I’m supposed to be, but I’m going out instead I think.’
Friends who had pledged their support with visual images all over Facebook, had taken them down within a week. Not because they didn’t believe in the cause, but because it was ‘old news’. Comments on the Kony 2012 site this evening have been met with ‘banter’ from friends of those commenting about their ‘living in the past’ attitude.
Something, therefore, has drastically gone wrong with this campaign.
I do not doubt that there are many outside this evening, plastering walls with the face of Kony, making him famous and their support for his arrest known, but I am also sure that there are just as many who believed themselves to be strong supporters of the campaign to begin with, who tonight sleep soundly, the Cover the Night campaign far from their minds.
It is a shame that something so important and promising has been cheapened by Social Networking and its Fad Culture. Invisible Children saw this movement as not important only for the victims of Kony’s crimes but also as important for the world. They hoped that, through the platform of Social Networking, they could start a movement that would change the face of global politics forever. They saw that the internet could be powerful politically on a scale never before imagined.
And as much as I want to believe with them, after watching the campaign unfold, the cynic in me now believes they might be ahead of their time.