Facebook and Twitter have replaced activism.
I’ve watched over the past few days as the volume of posts about KONY2012 has increased dramatically. Links to videos have been posted, profile photos have been changed, and statuses have been updated to reflect the newly generated outrage over the struggle in Uganda.
I decided to look into it further, and found the Invisible Children online store, where you can purchase your 2012 Action Kit, which is pictured below.
Yes, for just $30, you too can increase your social awareness. People will think that you’re an Advocate of Awesome. Just by purchasing an Action Kit, you will have made a difference – not in the lives of the children suffering abroad – but in your own life. You’ll be perceived as a better person, a trendy advocate.
People will know you care.
There’s a term for this. Its called Conspicuous Compassion, and its been around for a few years now. This new wave of #KONY2012 support has only recently brought it to my attention. The book itself was published in 2004, and I found it through a blog post by Merlin Mann.
The gist of Conspicuous Compassion is that
“displays of empathy do not change the world for the better: they do not help the poor, diseased, dispossessed or bereaved. Our culture of ostentatious caring concerns, rather, projecting one’s ego, and informing others what a deeply caring individual you are. It is about feeling good, not doing good, and illustrates not how altruistic we have become, but how selfish.”
The problem is that these displays of empathy don’t mean anything unless real action is taken. Action isn’t changing your profile picture or buying an action kit. Rather, its actually helping out with real issues that you see. Its volunteering with an organization, or giving money without getting a t-shirt or bumper sticker in return.
We live in a time of more connectedness and access to information than ever before. We can do better than posting a link to a video. We need to do more than just build awareness for a cause – a cause that will still be an issue once the statuses have been changed and the hashtags no longer trend.
We need to act.