By ZOE DARLING.
This month’s spread of online film KONY 2012 can be described as nothing else but viral.
With over 100 million online views in less than a week, it has become one of YouTube’s fastest growing clips ever.
It is thanks to social media users’ willingness to spread the word via Facebook and Twitter since the film’s release, with millions of tweets and mentions on Facebook, that these phenomenal numbers have been reached.
Online tracking site Visible Measures has confirmed it as “the fastest growing social video campaign ever”.
The instant viral success of the film through social media has since forced the mainstream media to take notice and has been followed by reports on not only the issues the film addresses, but more so on the spread of the film itself.
For those (few) people who have not watched, heard about or noticed the sudden interest in an issue on the other side of the world, here is what we are talking about.
KONY 2012 is a 30 minute documentary based on the campaign by United States charity Invisible Children to raise awareness of war criminal Joseph Kony and his followers, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Through the popularity of KONY 2012 on Facebook and Twitter, Invisible Children hope to make Kony and the LRA famous and put pressure on United States policy makers to continue their support of the Ugandan army in their fight to catch Kony and disarm the LRA.
But despite the KONY 2012 film only being released and gaining popularity in the last few weeks, the issue is not so recent.
Kony and the LRA, with their band of child soldiers, have been terrorising central Africa since 1987.
Joseph Kony has been top of the International Criminal Court’s most wanted list for crimes against humanity and war crimes since 2005.
So how can a 26 year issue go from virtually unreported in mainstream media and unnoticed by the masses, to dominating the media and minds of the socially conscious?
Social media of course.
Social media commentator Cara Pring says no other channel has the power of social media.
“Hundreds of thousands of people may read an article in TIME magazine, but over 850 million people have Facebook,” she says.
And she says people are more likely to listen to their friends than what a “faceless journalist deems important”.
The spread of KONY 2012 has raised the issue of whether this is a good thing.
Pring says that “while social media has the power to spread a message faster and more effectively than any other medium”, the influence of the message must also be considered.
She says the response to KONY 2012 “proves that the power of social media lies more in its ability to influence your thinking through tools like mob mentality, more so than spreading awareness about an issue, event or person”.
The film has shown that by employing the sharing skills of millions of social media users across the globe, the issues in central Africa are being brought to the attention of policy makers, and policy makers are taking notice.
A number of United States politicians have already spoken about the film and the issues it addresses, including US Senator and Chairman of Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on African Affairs Chris Coons and US Congressman and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Edward Royce.
So regardless of any issues, no one can argue that social media has failed when it comes to spreading the word.
And after all, that was the goal of KONY 2012.
Invisible Children’s mission statement includes to “use the power of the media to inspire young people”.
So whether there are criticisms of the film or the way in which it was spread, it has shown that social media is transforming the way we approach social change and will continue to generate innovate new ways to attract the attention of everyone.