This past weekend’s "Cover the Night" campaign, aimed at plastering pictures of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony throughout the world, reportedly fell flat.
This would seem to add credence to my earlier assertion on PolicyMic that internet activism is in many ways a placebo that makes people feel that they are doing good deeds while in actuality they are doing nothing. It is an example of how the internet allows many people to voice their opinion about a matter and then leave this opinion, somewhere off in the internet world, to do all the heavy lifting.
Over the same weekend as Cover the Night, people gathered together to ostensibly challenge marijuana laws throughout the U.S. These 420 gatherings, like the one in Boulder, Colorado, are another example of the trend toward lazy activism, or slacktivism.
There is the opinion that internet activism is essential for raising awareness, and as such is an important part of educating others on what is happening in the world, a sentiment with which I whole-heartedly agree. Raising awareness of issues is indeed important, but to affect change awareness must lead to action or it is as ineffective as doing nothing.
Millions of people watched the Invisible Children-produced Kony 2012 video. If even 10% of these people had taken to the street to support Cover the Night it would have been an awe-inspiring show of public service. But this did not happen.
Part of the reason that the Kony 2012 campaign has failed to gain any long-term traction may be that it was a sensation that had no real roots among those new to its message. Partial blame may also lay in the fact that Kony and his victims are thousands of miles and what seems like a world away. People just are not individually invested enough to make a long-term commitment to a cause they will never personally see resolved.
It is to many people’s credit that they are concerned with events like Kony’s rampage through Africa or the antiquated status of drug laws in the U.S. But much in the way that people should choose their battles, they should also choose the way by which they fight their battles.
Internet campaigns and once-yearly protests are unproductive because they are easy. Real political change takes time and often much sacrifice. The easy part is clicking the "like" or "play" button, but once the opinion is sent and the video is watched what happens next? If the unraveling of the Kony 2012 campaign is any evidence, the answer is not much.