In the world we live in today it is easier to put your voice out there than in anytime in history before. Anyone can publish their opinions as a blog or as a tweet. We can share pictures instantly with anyone, anywhere around the world. It is pretty amazing when you think about it.
One of the ways that social media has been particularly beneficial is through the spreading of ideas. More so, the spreading of ideas that can change people’s lives for the better. Sometimes, something comes along that goes viral. Not since the invention of the television have we seen anything with quite the same effect as the internet has had on news and media.
You may remember two years ago when Invisible Children launched their Kony 2012 campaign. It blew up the internet. Invisible Children unleashed something that not even they could see coming. It drew applause and criticism in equal measure. A combination of the abduction of children and the complicated situation in East and Central Africa, led many to want to take a stand and others to claim that IC were simplifying the situation.
Yet, that was never the goal of Kony 2012. It was to raise awareness of a huge injustice somewhere in the world. Of course, one campaign couldn’t explain decades of civil war and its fall out, but it could inspire some to take action.
Now things appear to have gone quiet with Joseph Kony. At least that is how it appears.
Then, more recently we had the #BringBackOurGirls campaign; a social media awareness campaign to put pressure on the Nigerian Government to up their game in bringing home hundreds of girls abducted from their schools, for no other reason that they were female and they were learning.
And now a month or so later, the campaign has quietened down proving to some that these kinds of exercises don’t work in having any real affect.
Or do they?
One of the reasons that I think that such campaigns seem to Peter out is that we feel like there is nothing more that we can do. Or maybe we want to be seen to care by our friends on Facebook and once we have what else can we do? Or maybe we just want to align with our favorite celeb?
But it is clear that in many of these situations there are complicated historical and political powers at work. That doesn’t make it right at all, but it could go some way in explaining why we lose interest.
Does this mean we should stop using our voices to take a stand? Absolutely not.
If we are privileged enough to have a free education or if we are able to walk to our friends home without the fear of being taken by a terrorist organization to kill for them, then we have a duty to speak out.
So on the face of it to some, it may look a lot like everyone has forgotten. That doesn’t paint the whole picture though. The picture of the men and women who work tirelessly everyday to free the imprisoned and stand up for what most people view as basic human rights.
It puts all our petty “human rights” that we feel are being trodden on, to shame.
When interning for Invisible Children a few years ago I heard a story from one of the staff about a screening that another staff member had arranged. Much work had been put in and they were all set for the night to be a huge success. In the end, three people turned up.
Still, the screening carried on and one of these three people was so inspired that they took it upon themselves to tell everyone what was happening with Joseph Kony.
He then went on to work for Invisible Children himself, becoming part of a team that would inspire thousands of teenagers across the world to take action.
Was this night a success? In some ways no, but in the unseen, hidden, long lasting view of things it changed someones life forever. So much so that they dedicated their life to changing thousands of others.
Was this night a success now?
This is an example of why social media can have such a major effect. It’s easy to assume that just because many have lost interest in the abducted girls that nobody cares.
But try telling that to the 13,14 or 15 year olds who are now writing to their MP’s or Senators. Try telling that to the kids who have held parties in their homes to tell their friends about the atrocities that are being carried out on kids just like them. When most of us live in a world of Twitter and Facebook, we can fall into the trap of believing that everything that is happening must be documented on Twitter.
If we can’t see a tweet or a hashtag to support something, then it must not be real. But that is not the same as forgetting. Or the same as doing something to change the world. Or the same as nobody doing anything.
For just because Twitter may have forgotten, doesn’t mean everyone has.
Something, we should all remember.