Last Wednesday, 7th March 2012, “Kony 2012” was the most searched for term on Google, and it was virtually impossible for anyone with an online presence to ignore the massive viral campaign by Invisible Children. It’s now Wednesday, 14th of March 2012, and I’ve barely seen a mention of it in the past few days, despite countless news articles and television spots in the mass media.
Google Insights confirms this- here’s the chart for the most popular “Kony” search term, “Kony 2012” over the past 30 days. The data is normalised, so the following numbers are relative to the total number of searches done on Google. As you can see pretty obviously, the peak is at March 7, a perfect score of 100, dropping 6 points to March 8, then drastically falling to 55 and 30 over the next two days. The last available data point is 13.
Almost identical graphs were observed for variations on the “Kony 2012” phrase, but this data means nothing if we cannot interpret it, and I think there’s a few possible explanations:
- We don’t care about Kony anymore. Simply, the internet has moved on in a mere 48 hours, and the consciption of thirty thousand odd child soldiers and God only knows how many murders have passed the scope of interest on the internet.
- We’ve been disillusioned by the counter campaign. The backlash to Kony 2012 was pretty strong, and there were countless Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter posts dedicated to the cause of broadcasting controversy and exposing half-truths surrounding Invisible Children’s campaign. Perhaps the weight of evidence against the campaign convinced us that it was no longer worthy of our time our attention.
- We’re embarrassed to continue the campaign. The previously mentioned counter-campaign was strong, and accusations of naïvety and slactivism came thick and fast from the anti-Kony campaign. To continue support of Kony 2012 is to open ourselves up to scorn and derision from our much more “enlightened” friends, basically the anti-goal of everything on the entire internet.
I tried to find some kind of other search term using Google, Google Trends and Google Insights that could work as a anti-term or antitheis to “Kony 2012”; some kind of phrase that was searched a lot for between the 7th and 9th that could add validity to the second hypothesis. “Kony 2012 Scam”, “Invisible Children Scam” and even a search for “Visible Children”, the anti-Tumblr account that claimed it was blocked by Facebook, turned up little search volume data. Despite several variations on this term, and flicking through Google Suggestions, nothing returned more than a score of “1” on Google Insights. Of course, this isn’t to say that hypothesis 2 has been disproved. For example, there wasn’t a clear branding to the anti-campaign such as the iconic “Kony 2012” that was easily recalled and searched for by those seeking alternative sources. There’s a distinct possibility as well that a wholesale disillusionment took place entirely through social networking; the retweeting and sharing of links, videos, tumblr posts and news articles was wide spread.
It is, of course, highly possible that we simply don’t care about Kony anymore, and the half life of viral campaigns on the internet is now shorter than ever. Campaigns come and go, and this one may have ran its course already. The criticism of “Slacktivism” was prominent among detravtors to the campaign, and this may be further evidence that watching and sharing a 30 minute video does nothing to actually help the subjects of the campaign (Ugandan kids), despite the emotion invested while watching the video. Regardless of whether this suggestion is correct, expect to see renewed interest leading up to the “Cover The Night” events on April 20 as the media builds hype around the iminent wrapping of cities by KONY 2012 posters.
Personally I feel that the real explanation lies in a combination of all three hypotheses- it’s naïve to think that just one could ever explain the sudden relative silence from the 95 million viewers of the campaign (and that number from YouTube and Vimeo alone). For some, the campaign has passed its internet vogue, for others, they believe it is no longer relevant after examining the counter message, and for others, it’s almost taboo to mention. I still think its enormously importent to bring Kony to justice, though perhaps not by the direct military intervention advocated by Invisible Children, or through donting your money to them. To suggest this though, is to invite critics, mockers and general internet shitstorm unto your opinion.
I think the scariest and most exciting possibility though is a fourth explanation. Similarly to above, this by no means explains the entire drop in attention to the campaign, but it may very well explain a large chunk.
4. We simply don’t know where to go from here.
Joseph Kony is now famous amongst the Western world, leaping from YouTube, to Facebook, to newspapers and even mainstream television. Well done, Invisible Children, objective acheived, awareness has been generated on a massive scale.
What do we do with it though? Tyrants, warlords and general criminals are nothing new, and anyone with an internet connection and an enlarged social conscience has the ability to generate some kind of awareness beyond themselves of the issues surrounding any chosen despot. The goal of Invisible Children has been achieved, but there is now little instruction given to those invested in the campaign, emotionally, financially or otherwise besides “Purchase a T shirt and put up some posters!”, which is effectively reinforcing the message of awareness.
Quite simply, where do we, as a global village, go from here?
I’d love to know your thoughts on your personal experience with the Kony 2012 campaign and any thoughts you have on my hypotheses stated above. Did these describe you at all? Have I got it completely wrong? Please, let me know.