What Did We Learn Here: #StopKony ?
There is a fantastic scene at the end of the much underrated Coen brothers movie, Burn After Reading, where J.K. Simmons (pictured right) asks the question of the string of unlikely events that make up the plot of the movie, “What did we learn here?” The C.I.A. agent who is recounting the story looks back at him puzzled and says that he has no idea. Simmons shakes off the strangeness of the event and agrees, “me neither”. It is the perfect ending to a movie that explores a seemingly random collection of tragedies and misunderstandings.
This past week, I found my self in the same puzzled situation. A video was released by the Invisible Children group promoting their 2012 campaign. It was attached to the tags, #StopKony, #MakeKonyFamous, or #Kony2012. To say that the video went viral is a gross understatement. Here is a chart showing how quickly the video went viral.
In case you aren’t good with bar graphs, StopKony had 100,000,000 views on YouTube in 6 days! If my math checks out, that is nearly 200 views every second! Unless you live under a rock, your social media feeds were blowing up with links to the video and the tags listed above. As quickly as the video rose in popularity, a number of articles criticizing the campaign went up. You can read some of them here,or here. Then, just as quick, Invisible Children fired back with this article detailing their side of the story. Click Here to read it.
Soon, many people were back on social media pointing out either a) the disingenuous nature of the campaign or b) it’s legitimacy. If your social media feed was anything like mine, some of the same people were posting both!
My aim here is not to weigh in on the question of whether or not StopKony is a good thing or a bad thing. My goal is to ask, “What did we learn here”. We are less than 10 days away from the posting of the video to YouTube and the sound and the fury has settled down. As I reflect on the whole kerfuffle, I think there are 3 things for us to learn, especially as Christians.
1. Our use of Social Media is not that much different from the world around us.
One of the things that was so fascinating about this campaign, and surely a part of it’s viral nature is the number of celebrities who jumped on board and were tweeting about it. Oprah, Justin Beiber, Kim Kardashian, and Chris Brown all tweeted about the film. The video transcended religion or lack thereof. We as Christians watched the film and jumped on board in the exact same fashion as everyone else. I am not sure that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is worth noting that our social media behavior was nearly identical to the world around us. We may have cloaked our language with more moral/biblical imperatives, but the content was the same.
2. We are victims of the same “news cycle” mentality as everyone around us.
It’s now 10 Days later, and there is not a single enduring mention of Kony in my twitter or facebook feed. The local high school who changed their fence art from “Class of 2012” to “#Kony2012” has reverted back to the celebration of their graduation date. In our world, information travels at the speed of…well, I don’t know; but I am sure it is fast. There is a good chance, if Joseph Kony was worried this time last week, he probably isn’t now. People have forgotten about him. He has been relegated to the ranks of things our parents will ask us about next week. Look at this chart comparing searches on Google for “Stop Kony 2012” and “Snooki Pregnant”
How in the world are we as Christians supposed to engage in long term discipleship in a culture that flies from one idea and cause to the next in a matter of days. It may become that one of the hallmarks of 21st century Christianity is our slavish devotion to talking about things for a long period of time. If we are willing to “hear the conclusion of the whole matter”, will this make us strangers in a foreign land where, by the time conclusions can be heard, people have moved on”.
3. We have not developed a culture of wisdom regarding social media.
This is, I think, the thing we as Christians need to consider deeply. How is social media shaping us? And the next question on that road is, “how is our message being shaped by social media?” We are blindly and thoughtlessly using social media. Sometimes we think of it as a great tool for connecting with others. It is. Sometimes we enjoy the benefits of having the google search bar and wikipedia just a click away. But is this effecting us? What is our theology of social media? I am not suggestion some Luddite retreat from technology. I am not suggesting we move to the desert and unplug. But at the same time I fear, for myself and for my children, that we are allowing these things to become so second nature that something is missing. I just can’t figure out what it is that I am missing.
I should probably just google it.