The directions to use shampoo are very simply – lather, rinse, repeat. Note there is no end to the directions, it’s an endless loop of lathering and rinsing.
Social media is just like shampoo. The directions are simple – like, share, repeat. And, just as with shampoo, social media is an endless loop of echoing messages rising in a viral crescendo until it reaches all of us, multiple times.
It started in the late 90s with the chain emails. There were jokes, silly ASCII graphics, and of course the ominous messages that told you to “forward this message to 10 people or else you’d be cursed”.
Then there were incentives. Things like Bill Gates promising money if a certain number of people saw an email.
On Facebook, it’s the lure of seeing who’s lurking your page, or the promise of a free coffee, or coupon. We see these phishing schemes all the time, and they don’t spread on their own. Someone has to be gullible enough to click it once, and then they have to have two gullible friends and so on and so on. Like, share, repeat.
The critical thinking of the majority is simply not sophisticated. The short attention span of a generation not willing to wait 3 seconds for a mobile app to load becomes a disability when applying effort to critically evaluate information’s validity before passing it on. If the bait is juicy enough, the reaction is instant – like, share, repeat.
Dear Joseph Kony, I’m Gonna help Make you FAMOUS!!!! We will stop YOU #StopKONY ! All 6,OOO,OOO of my followers RT NOW!!! Pls!
— iamdiddy (@iamdiddy) March 7, 2012
That missive from Diddy has been passed around more than 65 000 times.
A powerfully persuasive headline is going to get a like. Then it will be shared, and the process will be repeated so quickly that overnight millions of people who can’t identify Uganda on a map will suddenly be “passionate” about finding Joseph Kony.
A well crafted video about child soldiers that opens with a cute kid and a hot hipster dad will connect. And it has.
Generation Like is very quick to like, share, and repeat. Virality grabs these people quickly. It’s much easier to “LIKE” a headline than it is to think critically and examine all sides.
— Isaac Hepworth (@isaach) March 9, 2012
It wasn’t the usual digerati that liked and shared the Kony 2012 video, this one broke in Hollywood. The campaign was set up to hammer Hollywood asking them to pass the message to their followers.
“Celebrities, athletes and billionaires have a loud voice and what they talk about spreads instantly,” filmmaker Jason Russell says in the video.
Celebs are begged for retweets all the time. They’re an easy mark. Bomb them with requests and it’s bow that will break. Once the RT goes out to their millions of Beliebers, it will hit critical mass quickly. Justin Bieber was tweeting about how great the energy was in the studio one minute on Tuesday night, the next he was begging for global action.
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) March 8, 2012
A documentary is a very powerfully persuasive tool. They, most often, have a bias to present, an argument to make and are propagandandizing.
Michael Moore is a master at it.
So once Bieber asks his followers (a dozen times in one evening) to watch a video that is very well produced, crafts a strong argument and presents one side of the story, the lemmings will fall in line. Action kits will be bought. More tweets will be sent. Like, share, repeat.
LEGIT OR SPAM
African “millionaires” keep sending emails to us asking for help in wiring money between countries because people still fall for the ruse. We keep getting emails for viagra, because enough of a percentage of people click that link and buy the blue pills.
The Kony 2012 message keeps circulating the web in blanket acceptance because people haven’t looked beyond the headline. Bieber said so, it must be true. This group was on Oprah, it must be true.
My BS filter went off because the tweets I was seeing were from people I didn’t follow. I was being asked to retweet something that was filled with links and hashtags, there was no context. To me, it looked like someone trying to pitch me their friend’s band – #makekonyfamous. I chocked it up to spam, and deleted it.
So, is Kony 2012 a just cause supported by a questionable organization? Is it a questionable cause? Is it straight up legit?
There is more to this than simply like, share, repeat.
In the end, the instant virality of Kony 2012 is another example of Facebook slacktivism. Like, share, repeat. I’ve done my bit. A like is the modern currency of a charitable donation. Oh, you want me to help your charity? I’ll like it and retweet it and then the thought disappears. The celebrities like to appear charitable to their audience and when they get hammered by a twitter bomb asking the same message, they’ll flinch and share it to make it go away. That was the match to the fuse.
Slacktivism is not change, doing something is change. Like, share, repeat does not change the world, doing something about it does.
But doing something about it requires critical thought. It requires more than just a like, or share. It requires a time commitment. It requires a thought commitment. It requires a commitment. A like is a one night stand, click and move on to the next.
READ THINK REPEAT
If you really think the Kony 2012 cause is worth supporting, then dig deeper into why the BS filters have gone off around the web.
Here are some articles representing the other side of the issue. I’d love it if you would read, think, repeat.
Yes, Kony is a bad man. Yes, he needs to be brought to justice.
But the video has tweeters in the ether baying for blood seduced by slick editing and a black and white view of a 20-year conflict. It’s a thoughtless call to arms.
[Stop Kony? No, Start Reading]
It is time we Africans declared that our continent is no longer open to armature, self-interested do-gooders. Or risk forever being pawns
— TMS Ruge (@tmsruge) March 8, 2012
Kony 2012 is so seductive for precisely the same reasons that make it so dangerous. The half-hour video, now viewed 40 million times, sets viewers up for a message so gratifying and fulfilling that it is almost impossible to resist: there is a terrible problem in the world, you are the solution, and all you have to do is pass along this video. Unless you’re already well-enough informed on Central Africa to see the video’s many flaws — and the vast majority of people, very understandably, are not — only the most guarded skeptic is going to be able to resist.
I honestly wanted to stay as far away as possible from KONY 2012, the latest fauxtivist fad sweeping the web (remember “change your Facebook profile pic to stop child abuse”?), but you clearly won’t stop sending me that damn video until I say something about it, so here goes:
Stop sending me that video.
The organization behind Kony 2012 — Invisible Children Inc. — is an extremely shady nonprofit that has been called ”misleading,” “naive,” and “dangerous” by a Yale political science professor, and has been accused by Foreign Affairs of “manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes.” They have also been criticized by the Better Business Bureau for refusing to provide information necessary to determine if IC meets the Bureau’s standards.
[The Daily What]