In a world of social media, a new kind of revolution has been brewing-an internet revolution.
On March 5, 2012, a video was posted to YouTube with the title "Kony 2012." The thirty minute video soon exploded, beginning a whirlwind of controversy and praise. The documentary's director, Jason Russel, created the video with the intention of exposing the crimes of African warlord Joseph Kony.
According to the documentary, Kony kidnaps children in Uganda and presses them into his rebel army, the LRA or "Lord's Resistance Army." For his crimes, Kony is first on the International Criminal Court's list of world's worst criminals.
Russel, who has spent time in Uganda with the children who live in constant fear of the LRA, began the organization "The Invisible Children," in an effort to stop Kony. According to his website, www.kony2012.com, the documentary is part of his continuing campaign "to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice"
The video is based on the principle that raising awareness through social media such as YouTube, Facebook and twitter will bring the world together in a collaborative effort to stop Kony's regime.
Russel calls for people everywhere, especially young people, to use their voice and bring this issue to the attention of our policymakers in Washington D.C. He even singles out the people who he believes are the 20 most influential celebrities to spread the word and the 12 most important policymakers to contact.
The video, which has been viewed over 71,500,000 times on www.youtube.com and has received national attention, shows the power of a younger generation joined by the internet and social media networks.
Critics of this new form of internet activism claim that, although social media is fast, it is not always efficient. Despite all the awareness that Russel has generated, many believe that he has oversimplified the obstacles of defeating the LRA.
Russel's film is emotional and moving, winning the hearts of its viewers, but can the solution to ending Kony's regime be as simple as awareness? Not everyone thinks so.
"From what I hear it's a video that many have seen yet few act on," said Micky Krenek, a student at the University of Pittsburgh. "People view their part of contributing as just spreading the word. The problem is everyone spreads the word but very few actually do something. Those that will do something would have done something regardless of a video."
Micky, who is studying Psychology, believes that people don't know enough about what is needed to fix the problem, let alone the situation itself. He suggested presenting a picture of Africa to people who have seen the video and asking them to find Uganda. I took his test and found that I couldn't identify Uganda or any of the countries surrounding it.
This raises the question of the effectiveness of a social media revolution. True, awareness has been brought to the masses, but will they act?
Russel certainly believes they will. His entire video is based on the principle that awareness is critical for stopping Kony. He presents evidence that it can work, too.
At the beginning of his campaign Russel visited Washington D.C. in an attempt to convince the U.S. government to help the children of Uganda. He quickly learned that no one was willing to get involved in a situation where U.S. safety or our economy was not jeopardized. A few years later, after he had begun to spread the word about Kony, President Barak Obama authorized the deployment of a small number of U.S. troops to Uganda to provide advice and assistance to those working toward the removal of Kony.
Russel then asks for the continuance of public support through letters, phone calls, and e-mails to policymakers, in hopes that U.S. advisors will remain in Uganda. The effectiveness of Russel's campaign depends on the willingness of citizens to demand that the government continue to act.
The only question that remains is whether people will act or not. It all hinges on people's ability to show they care, because, as Russel claims, if we show we care, something will get done.
I don't know if this new revolution will be a successful one, but I do know one thing is certain: Times are changing.
Russel's concept that "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come," is appealing to a young generation who live in a world of smart phones and Facebook. Like generations before them, they are ready to be heard.
"It does draw attention to a global issue through viral methods, which is interesting," added Micky Krenek. "Ten years ago this could not have happened."