Why social media can’t change the world

On April 20, 2012, the entire world changed forever. Inspired by Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign, millions stormed the streets in protest of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group. These die hard activists stormed the streets armed with posters, t-shirts, and novelty buttons. Overnight, decades old conflicts were solved, Kony was arrested, and justice was served.

The only unfortunate downside to April 20 was that the world didn’t change forever. The millions of protestors turned out to be only a few hundred. The novelty items turned out to be ineffective weapons against the harsh realities of the African continent.

In 3 days, the video garnered 21 million views, and today, the total view count sits at over 90 million. Yet unbeknownst to many Youtube viewers, watching a video is not equivalent to engaging in social advocacy. This had led some to accuse Invisible Children of promoting slacktivism.

They argue that the oversimplification of complex situations into easily digestible social media bites undermines legitimate activism.

However, others reply that awareness campaigns are beneficial, and provide a social outpouring of support that is used to enact real, lasting change.

What do you think? Is Kony 2012 simply a bad example? Can social media really change the world?