Kony 2012

It is fairly obvious that political events cause changes on social media. When an elected official creates a new policy, people create posts about it. It is less obvious if social media can create real-world change. Through activism, it may be possible for enough collective voices to make a difference. Social media users have raised money for people who were sick and raised awareness about diseases like ALS through the ice bucket challenge. A good example of activism online is Kony 2012.

   A video about the Ugandan warlord leader, Joseph Kony, was released by the organization Invisible Children. The video went viral, and the purpose of it was to raise awareness of Kony and all the terrible things he has done. Social media users wanted the government to catch him. The organization made had a campaign called “cover the night” where people could get posters and merchandise to put up so the public would gain awareness of Kony. The day when people were supposed to cover the night, nothing really happened. People donated money, celebrities donated and tweeted about the video, but nothing really happened. Kony is still out there. Humphreys (2016) calls this flash activism. It is when activism that appears and disappears overnight.

   Invisible Children encouraged people to engage online, which made it seem easy to catch Kony. This is oversimplifying the problems in Uganda; Kony could not be caught with a like on Facebook. They encouraged slacktivism. Baylin (2012) says that slacktivism is supporting causes through simple actions online, such as liking or sharing on social media. Kony 2012 is a classic example of flash activism and slacktivism. A cause gets a lot of attention and people engage online, but nothing happens in reality.

Baylin, E. (2012) The difference between slacktivism and activism: How ‘Kony 2012’ is narrowing the gap. Huffington Post. Retrieved from  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/evan-bailyn/kony-2012-activism_b_1361791.html

Humphreys (2016) Social media: Enduring principles. New York: Oxford University Press.

Emily Hesselmark


One thought on “Kony 2012

  1. If anyone’s interested, here’s some great data from a Pew phone survey about the reach and influence of the video:

    The really interesting insight is that “younger adults were also more than twice as likely as older adults to have watched the video itself on YouTube or Vimeo”

    Attention was also paid to the negative influence of the video’s rhetorical rather than informative value. For instance, Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire is reported to have said, “I think we need to have a kind of sound intelligent campaign geared toward real policy shifts, rather than an adverse sensationalized story that is out to make just one person cry.”


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