by: Riley Cooper
Do you ever randomly remember an embarrassing moment from your past and feel every fibre of your being cringe at the memory?
This is how I feel when I think about how my classmates and I reacted to the Kony 2012 movement. To say I knew little on the subject would be giving myself too much credit. And yet, I never questioned why that was.
I was in junior high when the video in question was released. It depicted a white man, based out of California, stating his and the Invisible Children’s plan to capture one of the most sought after guerrilla war leaders, Joseph Kony. Almost overnight, everyone at my school began talking about this video; possibly because of how unrealistic the entire idea seemed. I must have missed the memo because I had no idea what was going on. Still, when I heard my fellow classmates referring to the video and using the phrase “Kony 2012”, however, I pretended to understand so I could fit in. Since I was living at home, and had little access to technology, when I did get time on the computer, I used it for playing games or making comics. Finding out what Kony 2012 referred to wasn’t exactly at the top of my list.
However, one thing I did know was that the creator was trying to make a difference. This made me feel like when when my friends and I spoke about it, we were making difference; I was part of the solution. Realistically, I did absolutely nothing to help. This is how some types of online activism or “slacktivism” works.
Slacktivism is the concept of expressing your support for a political or social cause while failing to offer any help that has tangible, positive results. For example, posting on Facebook that you claim to support the reduction of palm-oil use, but still buying products that you it.
Now, I’m certainly not saying online activism can never accomplish anything. It simply seems ironic to me when people post on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts to show all their followers how wonderful they are, and to display everything they support, yet do nothing to endorse the cause otherwise. This also includes adding relevant hashtags to your post.
People are constantly posting online in support of different movements. Let’s take my friend for example; we’ll call him… George. George runs an overwhelmingly active twitter account. Nonetheless, I noticed that George tweeted in defence of Colin Kaepernick by using the hashtag: #takeaknee. Fast forward to now when George has not posted regarding race or police brutality in the United States since his use of the hashtag. He simply sticks to witty remarks about politicians. Offline, George has furthermore done little to advocate for the cause.
Say I didn’t personally know George, however. I would have seen that he tweeted his support for racial equality and the end of racial profiling in the United States and that would be the end. I would go on thinking that he stood for something great. But that’s not the case. I argue that using hashtags like these, or posting about the charitable work you are doing, benefits no one but yourself. It makes you look good, it makes you feel good, but it does not help those who are physically impacted by the root of the movement.
If you want to post your support for an organization or crusade for all your followers or friends to see, go ahead. But next time, ask yourself whether your tweet or status is going to actually affect the people involved, or if you’re really just doing it for your image.