Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week or gave up social media for Lent, you’ve probably seen Tweets and Facebook posts about Saving the Invisible Children of Uganda, Kony 2012, or making Joseph Kony Famous. These are the result of an incredibly successful social media campaign by nonprofit organization, Invisible Children, to raise awareness about Joseph Kony and bring him to justice. At the heart of the campaign is an emotional 30-minute documentary, Kony 2012, which tells the heartbreaking story of young children in Uganda being abducted from their homes and forced to become child soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Launched on Monday, the documentary has quickly gone viral with over 55 million YouTube views.
The campaign leveraged celebrities, such as Oprah and Ryan Seacrest, to distribute the video through their social networks. It also took advantage of users’ willingness to share compelling content with their networks.
The video popped up on my social network on Tuesday. I didn’t immediately pay attention to it, but I saw more posts on Wednesday, so I decided to watch the video. I knew little about the subject matter and had never heard of Joseph Kony, so I was affected by the video and supported it. On Thursday, I noticed some people in my network had posted articles pointing out flaws in Invisible Children’s campaign.
This motivated me to dig deeper. I read articles suggesting that Joseph Kony is a terrible man and needs to be stopped, but the problem is a lot more complicated than the 30-minute documentary suggests. For example, if we were to arrest Joseph Kony, what would happen to the child soldiers? Would they be incorporated back into their villages? The video doesn’t say anything about its plans after Kony is arrested.
Politics and foreign policy aside, I think it’s interesting to note how our social networks can affect our opinions. According to the Kony 2012 film, there are more people on Facebook today than there were on the planet 200 years ago. That’s a lot of Facebook users who have built social networks with people whom they trust and are influenced by.
If I had received the same content in an email from Invisible Children, I likely would have deleted the email without watching the video. Since I saw so many people in my network talking about it, I became intrigued and willing to spend 30 minutes to watch the film. I trusted the campaign and bought into it more easily because my social network seemed to trust it. My opinion was impacted again and I was motivated to do additional research when I saw people posting articles urging us to think critically before jumping on the Kony 2012 bandwagon.
What do you think? Are you more willing to read articles when they are posted by your network? Are you influenced by their opinions?