Invisible Children: Slacktivism or Heroism?
As most of you are aware, Invisible Children has changed the landscape of modern digital activism with a video that will do for cause media what Star Wars did for sci-fi. In short, the video is a professionally produced documentary highlighting African rebel warlord Joseph Kony’s unconscionable practice of forcing 9 to 12 year olds into a life of violent slavery as child soldiers. The general purpose of the campaign is to raise international awareness of Kony’s crimes, with a goal of capturing and trying him by the end of 2012.
According to the Invisible Children website:
Invisible Children uses film, creativity, and social action to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restores LRA-affected communities in Central Africa to peace and prosperity.
The organization had a goal of gaining 500,000 video views by the end of 2012. In the week of Feb. 25 to March 2, the video had gained 103 views. From March 2 to March 8, the video garnered 14.2 million plays. The rest is online media history.
This much attention, however, is inevitably a magnet for criticism. And, let’s face it: any organization that is capable of gaining the support of the U.S. military certainly deserves to be analyzed under a powerful microscope.
There is one type of criticism however that – as marketers, media leaders and global citizens -- we should be vigilant to avoid.
“Slacktivism” is a term that has been coined in the past few years to criticize those who do a little, rather than “a lot” towards a cause. The likelihood of being labeled a Slacktivist increases if you engage in social media activities (like tweetingn or sharing on Facebook) to help a cause. The irony: by doing nothing, you can avoid the Slacktivist scarlet letter!
What these pundits are missing is that little good has ever happened from the actions of a single individual. Most good things: from innovations to revolutions have emerged from a whole lot of people adding a little bit of a value to a greater good. Humans are social creatures who can only succeed, thrive –and yes survive- with other humans doing a whole lot of tweeting, baking, texting, walking, working, talking, or buying. This utility of small actions has only been multiplied by the advent of social media.
Hope is the oxygen of happiness for all of us. We have to believe that our little actions mean something, and that we will be the next lottery winner, startup success, or hero. It’s an essential part of our personal narratives.
There are two reasons why this is all crucial for green marketers. One, people really do get things done that are good when we work together, and two, people have an inherent need to believe that this is true.
By siding with the spirit of what the Invisible Children Organization represent, you are siding with an optimism that is a constituent component of humanity. Maybe that tweet will be the spark that ignites the fire in the right person. Perhaps that one extra signature on the petition will put the campaign over the tipping point. Maybe buying that orange-scented Zero-VOC cleaner will send the right message to the manufacturers and buyers.
By siding with the optimists and doers, green marketers are aligning themselves with a kind, gentle, (critics might say naïve), but powerful essential element of an individual’s being. Our green history is filled with such examples. Next month, I will write about how the powerful force of hope and passion cuts across political and social boundaries, enabling alligator poachers, environmentalists and powerful government officials to make real change happen against tremendous odds and significant opposition.