“Q: I hate things that try to make people feel like they’re “making a difference” by liking a Facebook status…
A: Yeah, awareness without action means nothing. If that’s your stance, then don’t feel like you’re being indoctrinated to do anything. I first found this on stumbleupon, and I think we’re at unique opportunity to help this man’s life by spreading his story. I’m not trying to make you buy a bumper sticker or anything.”
This quote is from FAQ from the website of a short film called Finding Benjaman Kyle about a man with total amnesia found unconscious behind a fast food restaurant. When Florida filmmaker John Wikstrom learns “Benjaman’s” story, he’s inspired to make a movie (a website, facebook page, and appearances on talk shows) appealing to the public to help identify the mystery man.
The short film Kony 2012 by Jason Russell and his organization, Invisible Children, takes the same tack: trying track down Ugandan LRA leader Joseph Kony and bring him to justice.
Both filmmakers want you, the engaged audience, to help them “find” their subjects and make them “famous.” Jason Russell’s goal is the capture and trial of a violent warlord. John Wikstrom’s goal is to have someone recognize and give an identity to a man who doesn’t recognize himself.
Both films reiterate over and over that awareness is powerful tool and social media is a method of creating and maintaining public awareness.
The debate over youth involvement in Kony2012 is the best example of this phenomenon. Without getting bogged down in the the litany of complaints about IC, the central question is, “Are you doing anything when you “like” or “share” something associated with a social cause?” Does awareness create results?
“And so the question is, how do we use that? And we have now the responsibility of communicating with 150,000 people that we weren’t communicating with before. So there’s responsibility that comes with this. This isn’t free. If you’re going to ask for this, you have to manage it. If you’re going to ask for it, you have to fulfill your side of the deal. It’s not a one-way street. It’s a two-way street. That’s what makes the social media work.” Jeffrey Koseff Perry L. McCarty Director, Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University
A very bright man, Henry Timms, a Director at the 92nd St Y in NYC, said at a talk I attended recently, “Its not about content creation, it’s about context creation.”
If we want to engage people, we have to create comfortable digital spaces where visitors want to hang out and pitch in.
“For example, just before the Egyptian uprising in early 2011, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians joined Facebook groups that bitterly complained about the status quo. But when protests began on January 25, the Internet and social media only brought a few hundred Egyptian activists into the streets. Their chants about economic disparity swelled the numbers to a few thousand. Once they reached a few thousand, they became a verifiable television event, and once televised, their number swelled to the millions.When al Jazeera started covering the Egyptian protests, the multimedia coalesced into a message of revolution that touched the majority of Egyptians. The numbers speak volumes: in an International Republican Institute poll in April, 84 percent of Egyptians polled said television was their most important source of information about the protests, only six percent pointed to Facebook. Twitter didn’t even register.” Center for Strategic and International Studies
If you’re building democracy in Egypt, you get a few “early adopters” involved, build momentum, get international media coverage, and wait for the masses. If you’re working for Invisible Children, you make a emphatic video, get supporters involved in real life by organizing superfun events, and wait for the masses.
So keep clicking kids. Keep clicking and buying and sharing and liking.