Kony 2012 Shows Social Media Superpower

Social media proved its pull on March 5, after showing the Kony 2012 video. The video received tens of millions of views worldwide, making it the most viral video in history.

By Lucie Edwardson

Hundreds of Dalhousie students attended the KONY 2012 screening March 7 after the video went viral (Tyler Korpie photo).

Social media proved its pull on March 5, after the eruption of Twitter, Facebook and Vimeo shares of the Kony 2012 video. The video received tens of millions of views worldwide, making it the most viral video in history.

Invisible Children, the charitable organization that released the campaign, describes the movement’s mission on their website as“using film, creativity and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA –affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity,”

The Kony campaign has shown how powerful social media can be.

The popularity of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other social media forums have been on the rise for the past few years.

Dalhousie University International Development professor, Dr. Robert Huish, says that the Invisible Children organization intended for the Kony 2012 video to go viral.

Stats of video
Breakdown of Kony 2012 video statistics

“The result of this, is that you have not only seen a broad spread of awareness of the issue, and endorsement by celebrities,” said Huish, “but now a mechanism of critical feedback that has started from it.”

Huish says that social media hasn’t changed because of the Kony 2012 campaign; rather, the organizers realized a way to use social media to its fullest potential.

“Social media is just that, it’s a tool, and ultimately behind any sort of tool, if its going to be Twitter today or the Guttenberg printing press back in the 16th century, it has to matter who is organizing the movement behind it,” said Huish.

Interview with Dr. Huish
Dr. Huish

Dr. Huish discusses social media as a tool.

Huish explains that the most important element of a social media movement is the team spear heading the project.

“Someone had to organize the event and foresee the spreading of it and then use the vehicle there,” said Huish, “Its not to say that social media, especially the two current popular ones, Facebook and Twitter, are designing revolutionary change, they are just simply tools at the disposal of people who are well organized.”

Invisible Children’s initial goal for the Kony 2012 video was 500,000 views. The video has now been viewed tens of millions of times.

The organizers targeted A list celebrities and well-known policy makers who are active on social media sites such as Twitter, by posting ‘#stopkony’ on their pages and having others do the same. In doing this, they, along with all their followers, successfully flooded the social networks of these prominent individuals.

Pro-Kony 2012
Kony 2012
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor supports campaign

Taylor Quinn, a first year international development and social anthropology student is a co-founder of the Dalhousie Invisible Children society. Quinn fears that the Kony 2012 campaign has done more harm than good for Invisible Children.

“The Kony 2012 movement has definitely harmed the work Invisible Children does” said Quinn, “because in my personal opinion … that is not where Invisible Children has their bread and butter or where they should be … their bread and butter in simplistic terms is picking up the pieces.”

After the Kony video went viral, the Dalhousie Invisible Children society was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up to their screening of the video. Prior to that Monday, they had approximately 50 people stating they would attend; in stark contrast, Wednesday’s screening at the Scotia Bank auditorium at Dalhousie University had every chair filled, and all isles and possible standing space packed with people.

Interview with Taylor Quinn
Quinn interview

Taylor Quinn discusses the impact Kony 2012 has had on Invisible Children.

“A week ago no one knew who Kony was, nobody knew the organization Invisible Children, except for maybe a high estimate of 300 Dal students,” said Quinn, “and as we sit here, Friday morning, after the video came out Monday, it seems like the entire world knows. The entire world has been asking about it … and social media has literally taken this movement everywhere. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Quinn explains that social media have played a huge role at Dalhousie and other universities in spreading the word about Invisible Children, specifically the Kony 2012 campaign.

Huish says that the big issue with the use of social media in the Kony 2012 campaign is that “truncated (history) into sound bites and into tweets,” causing individuals without expertise on the subject to chime in with opinions which causes false information to circulate around the web.

Quinn says that people have “always said social media could do something like this,” but never before has it actually been done.

This screen shot is an example of how social media was used by individuals after the critical backlash of the Kony 2012 campaign (Glen Coco photo).

While the campaign raised awareness on the world’s #1 criminal, it also spiked concerns about whether the use of social media does more harm than good.

This is largely due to social media forums, which allow for instant response and debate to take place, as seen with the Kony campaign.

Anti-Kony 2012
Visible Children
Should I donate money to Kony 2012 or not

Through the Kony 2012 campaign it has become clear that social media can be a tool used to create awareness, spark debate and become international headlines.

Social media is proving each day not the power that it holds, but rather the power that the users hold. It appears that if social media is going to continue to be the forum of choice, individuals need to be aware of the power they possess in employing social media as their vehicle.