Confessions of a Kony 2012 Action Kit Purchaser

On March 5, Kony 2012 popped up so many times in my Facebook newsfeed that I had to watch it right away. I was moved to tears — I knew I had to do something to take action against Joseph Kony. I tweeted the video and shared it on Facebook to inspire my friends to join me.

When I noticed all the mean articles criticizing Invisible Children (IC), I realized that they needed my support. I decided to buy the Kony 2012 action kit: $30 for a good cause and a cute bracelet sounded like a great deal. I also signed the pledge calling for Kony’s arrest. I felt great. Here in the U.S., across the world from Uganda, I was making a difference.

I was pumped for Cover the Night on April 20, to take the streets with Stop Kony posters and make Kony so famous that the international community would have to catch him. In the week leading up to April 20, IC sent out daily “missions” to all of us who had signed the pledge: These missions asked us to share the pledge on Facebook (check), tweet at the leaders of the African Union (check), the United Nations (check), the U.S., U.K., European Union, France (check) and our own heads of state (check).

On April 20, I didn’t get an e-mail about the day’s mission. I wanted to wear my t-shirt all day, but it was the wrong size and I just wore it to the gym. I wanted to go put my poster up, but I didn't see a single one on the streets. I checked Facebook, which said the campaign was happening “anywhere” and “everywhere,” but where? None of my friends had status updates about Cover the Night, either. So I tweeted #coverthenight @invisible and felt satisfied that I had done my part. Stop Kony2012!

The culmination of the Kony 2012 campaign, Cover the Night, was the anti-climax to the online brawl that ensued in the weeks following the video’s release. When the moment arrived for the millions of tweeting, pledge-signing, Facebook-liking activists to get offline, they were stumped. Watching Kony 2012 and even participating in the online conversation about its impact was easy: it made the world’s problems appear solvable through a click. But when the same online activists were urged to serve their local communities, they didn’t know where to go. The world suddenly seemed like a larger, more daunting place again.

Invisible Children assumed that the campaign’s online success would be enough to motivate their supporters to get off Facebook and take to the streets. It failed to recognize with no offline direction other than a vague call to community service was unlikely to inspire the slacktivists the campaign had attracted in the first place.

To paraphrase a recent article on the flight from conversation to online interaction, we are tempted to think that “little sips” of online activism add up to a “big gulp” of real change. But they don’t. A movement that begins without face-to-face contact between its supporters is unsustainable—online activists are not accustomed to devoting their time to putting up posters when it is far easier to click on a link and sign a petition. Unless online campaigns find meaningful ways to engage their supporters offline, their impact will remain confined to computer screens.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Shanoor Seervai

Shanoor Seervai has wanted to be a writer since she was four years old. She is currently based in Mumbai, where she writes about environmental and social issues, the non-profit sector, women's rights and arts and culture for The Wall Street Journal.

MORE FROM

Anthony Scaramucci acknowledges “colorful language” after ‘New Yorker’ published his wild rant

Scaramucci's "colorful language" revealed the high-stakes tension going on at the White House.

Lindsey Graham says he is creating legislation to block Trump from firing Mueller

Graham said earlier that ousting Mueller would mark the "beginning of the end of the Trump presidency."

Despite Trump, military leaders say there will be no changes to transgender policy for now

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."

Trump will visit Long Island to discuss gang violence — but some fear he could make the issue worse

Trump has celebrated mass deportations as fighting gang violence — but are his words helping or hurting?

Like his boss, Anthony Scaramucci seems to be a fan of disgraced football coach Joe Paterno

President Donald Trump also gave a shout-out to the late Penn State coach during the 2016 campaign.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: Transgender ban, GOP healthcare struggling, video games relieve work stress

What you need to know for Thursday, July 27.

Anthony Scaramucci acknowledges “colorful language” after ‘New Yorker’ published his wild rant

Scaramucci's "colorful language" revealed the high-stakes tension going on at the White House.

Lindsey Graham says he is creating legislation to block Trump from firing Mueller

Graham said earlier that ousting Mueller would mark the "beginning of the end of the Trump presidency."

Despite Trump, military leaders say there will be no changes to transgender policy for now

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."

Trump will visit Long Island to discuss gang violence — but some fear he could make the issue worse

Trump has celebrated mass deportations as fighting gang violence — but are his words helping or hurting?

Like his boss, Anthony Scaramucci seems to be a fan of disgraced football coach Joe Paterno

President Donald Trump also gave a shout-out to the late Penn State coach during the 2016 campaign.

‘Hot Mic’ podcast: Transgender ban, GOP healthcare struggling, video games relieve work stress

What you need to know for Thursday, July 27.